A study just published in the Archives of Internal Medicine states that the offspring of longer-lived parents have a lower prevalence of cardiac risk factors in middle age. In addition, they are less likely to develop high blood pressure and coronary heart disease over time. The study then concludes that there are well-established genetic contributions to each of the risk factors that we have examined that may partially explain the reduced risk factors for those with long-lived parents.
But hold on a second here. Is this a question of genetics, or is it more a question of nature VS nurture?
Understand, you don’t just inherit genes from your family. You often inherit lifestyles. If you grow up in a Hamberger Helper and Beefaroni family, it’s more likely that you too will eat Hamburger Helper and Beefaroni when you grow up, as opposed to tofu. If you grow up in a family where your parents smoke, then you are more likely to smoke — and the study acknowledges as much. It cites the risk factors associated with smoking and then states that “smoking has been shown to be familial so it may be that the shorter-lived parents, like their offspring, were more likely to have smoked, contributing to premature mortality.”
But even beyond lifestyle, the study of epigenetics has shown that the dietary and environmental indiscretions of the parents are visited upon their children and grandchildren, even without genetic changes. In that sense epigentics is almost Biblical. “He punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” (Numbers 14:18)
So before you pass responsibility for your health to bad genes, remember that lifestyle choices are likely to be more significant than genetics — not only for your own health, but for the health of your children and their children, even unto the fourth generation.