We’re all dealt a genetic hand. Some of us might let fear of inheriting the same genes that our relatives have get in the way of getting timely physical exams. Some of us might let this same fear allow us to give up because “it’s a done deal” and we’re going to stay this way forever. In terms of high blood pressure, this might look like not getting our numbers checked (kind of like an ostrich with its head in the sand). Or it might lead to “I’m going to have high blood pressure and die from some comorbidity anyway, so I might as well eat whatever I want and/or drink as much alcohol as I want to, or smoke, or be a couch potato, or not manage my stress”.
If we are driven by any of these thought patterns, it’s important to keep in mind epigenetics.
Epigenetics deal with the forces that determine whether inherited genes in our DNA are turned on, turned off, or remain unexpressed.
So … think of your body as a piano, your genes (DNA) as the keys, your life is the song that’s being played, and epigenetics are the fingers striking the keys to play your life’s song.
When playing the piano, different things can affect whether or not a key is played and the outcome of the intended song… Has the player been practicing? What about their muscle agility, the player’s interpretation of the song, the player’s mood, the lighting in the room, or their energy level? You get the picture!
It’s a similar type of deal with our epigenetic fingers and the hand we’ve been dealt. In this case, the fingers are our environment combined with our lifestyle choices. For example: If we’ve inherited the genes for high blood pressure, it’s not necessarily “written in stone” that we will have it, or that if we do have it that we will have the comorbidities that our relatives had or do have. There’s no reason to lose hope or give up and give in. The fingers of epigenetics, when given favorable conditions, have the potential to skip those undesirable gene keys on the piano.
How can we help create favorable conditions to facilitate the environment to have the song we want played? By incorporating the following lifestyle modifications:
Our food and beverage choices:
- Low sodium foods
- Foods naturally high in potassium
- Foods with magnesium
- Colorful fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Fish (especially Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon)
- Lean beef
- Seeds, Nuts
- Teas (hibiscus, green tea)
- Low/no fat dairy
- Don’t smoke. Avoid second hand smoke
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Manage stress- meditation, therapy, exercise, soul-nourishing social activities
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation
- Physical Activity- not only does this reduce stress, there are some studies showing a specific epigenetic mechanism by exercise helps manage blood pressure.
Choose wisely to help those “fingers” play the life song you want!!
Here’s to beautiful music and good health!