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How Genetics Play a Role in the Aging Process

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Our genes play a major role in the way we age.  While it’s true that nurture (the lifestyles we choose) affects the aging process, at least some of the process is in the hands of our genes.

And now, scientists have discovered that the FOXO3A gene is a strong determinant of the way in which we all age.

This gene is what’s known as the “longevity” gene, according to researchers.

The Game of Letters

Genes are all assigned a letter to make them intelligible to research, assigned as A, T, C and G.  We’re all imparted our genes through our parents, with combinations arising like CC, GG and CG.

If you have the CC gene, you may a higher chance of living to be 100 but it’s more likely you’ll have a normal life expectancy.  The CG doubles your chances of living to that ripe, old age and the GG gene means you have 3 times the chance of living to see 100.

Stress Has Two Faces

Only about 20% of us have a genetic makeup engineered to an extended life span.  But here’s some good news – if you intentionally foster a healthy lifestyle, you can not only increase your life expectancy, you can turn on the gene combination that predetermines that effect.

And combating the unhealthy effects of stress in our lives is a crucial part of turning on those good genes.  Stress leads to inflammation in the body.  Its physical effects on us can’t be denied at this point.  While people find it difficult to understand, there’s incontrovertible evidence to tell us it harms our bodies.

But some stress is a good thing.  For example, the survival instinct represents a healthy type of stress.  Our fight or flight signals are what keep us alive.  They keep us working and striving – up to a point.

Hormesis is the process by which our bodies produce chemicals to respond to this type of stress. When low level, naturally beneficial stress arises, the body responds by releasing chemicals and hormones like dopamine.

That’s why exercise is so essential to health.  When you work out, your body responds to the stress and when you’re done, immediately begins the process of repairing itself, going into rest mode.  The processes work together.  Exercise kick starts the repair process and encourages the body to operate at maximum efficiency.

Nature and Nurture Matter In Equal Measure

It’s nice to have the right combination of genes, gifted to us by our parents and their parents and their parents before them.  But we can’t all boast them.

We have choices, though.  We can choose to nurture our health with the right lifestyle to kick-start a genetic process which replicates the natural presence of protective gene combinations.

So, while genetics play a role in the aging process, so does the way we live.  The choices you make today about how you’ll conduct your life are the true determinants of how you’ll age and well you’ll do it, as the years pass.

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