ME Monday – Genes versus Healthy Lifestyle

I sometimes feel like my life is an experiment to see what role genetics versus healthy living play in disease prevention and longevity.

I wasn’t born into a family with the healthiest genes. Heart disease, stroke and cancer killed my grandparents – none of them lived to see their 70th birthday. Breast cancer has plagued my mother in her 30s, again in her 50s and her mother in her 40s. (On a side note, my mom tested negative for the “known” breast cancer genes.) My mom has also battled thyroid and skin cancer. Many of my great uncles and my maternal grandfather battled melanoma. Blood pressure problems and diabetes run strong on my father’s side of the family.

No matter what direction I look, I see potential health problems in my future. But – I CHOOSE to live a healthy life. An optimistic life. An active life. I have made healthy-living a part of my lifestyle and I love the way these things make me feel. I don’t smoke. I drink alcohol sparingly. I eat mostly from the earth, following a flexitarian diet (mostly plant based with occasional animal meat). I exercise daily. I try to keep a healthy level of stress in my life.

greenlake park bench

Toddler cuddles are good for the soul.

I have definitely pondered whether this way of life is worth it. I’ve thought, “what would I change if I found it didn’t matter?” Would I eat twinkies all day? Would I stop running? Would I be a half-glass-empty type of girl? The answer comes naturally – I really wouldn’t change anything. The choices I’ve made help me feel energized and strong and good about my life in the present moment. And when it comes down to it, that’s really the only thing I can control.

kid on tree

Hope to be around for a long time with this little lady.

Have a great Monday!

How is your family health history? Does it influence the way you live your life?


14 thoughts on “ME Monday – Genes versus Healthy Lifestyle

  1. I choose healthy living for the same reasons that you mentioned. I was adopted and don’t know my health history, so I’ve always felt that I need to cover my bases, but I’m sure that even if I knew my biologocal family’s health history I wouldn’t change a thing. I feel the best when I’m making healthy choices, including the occasional cupcake… for the soul 😉

  2. Sounds like you’ve chosen your lifestyle for all the right reasons. It appears you have a really healthy balance, too.
    I’ve occasionally evaluate myself to see if I’m just pushing back those desires to be sedentary and indulge in whatever I want to eat. I truly believe I would not be as happy as I am, if I lived that way.
    Healthy and Happy just kinda go hand-in-hand. :)

    • So true! I think about days when I’m traveling and fruits and veggies are hard to come by and after a few days I just don’t feel very good physically or emotionally. You are right, healthy and happy do go hand-in-hand! :)

  3. Great post! I also am a product of unhealthy genes. My mother more things wrong with her before she died than I can remember. My father just died of lung cancer. I’ve always tried to maintain a healthy lifestyle but had fallen in and out. In 2010, I had some life changing experineces and haven’t looked back since. I have never felt better! You are making an excellent choice!

  4. I feel the same way. While our health isn’t HORRIBLE, its something I try and avoid. I do have to focus a bit on skin health, but I am happy to do so. My husband hasn’t been so lucky; though he’s only in his mid-30s he already has cholesterol issues, which he worries about a lot. I try and tell him its genetics – for goodness sake, he’s in the Army, runs marathons, eats well; sometimes the odds are stacked against you!

  5. the interplay of genetics and environment/lifestyle is so interesting.

    mom’s side: melanoma, dementia
    dad’s side: obesity, hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease (and the latter 3 are invariably caused by the 1st which is self-induced)

    i keep active because 1) it’s what i’ve always done and 2) it keeps me sane. in my “later years,” i’ve paid more attention to what i eat and goes into my body after realizing (through education, growing up, etc) that this can affect your well-being quite a bit. i have my vices (dessert, diet coke), but otherwise think im doing what i can to hopefully live a long, healthy life. we shall see…

    cool post!

  6. I find this so interesting as well – and I’ve become much more thoughtful about it since having kids. Both sides of my family are ripe with autoimmune disorders. My husbands mother died of breast cancer, but other than that, we don’t have a ton of cancer, etc. but my concern is the environment and living a healthy, clean lifestyle to battle all the toxins around us. I had melanoma when I was 25 years old and 35 weeks pregnant – not fun! It kind of scared me into realizing that I am susceptible to anything and my health is the only thing I can do my best to take care of. I also want to instill health in my kids. We are still figuring it out, but we do not eat a ton of meat or dairy products and refined sugars, and try to eat clean, natural and healthy! It’s all so interesting to me!

    • Wow, melanoma at 25 and 35 weeks pregnant! That would be stressful to say the least! I check my moles like a mad woman ever since little patches of skin cancer started showing up on my mom. I’m glad you found it in time!

  7. my family started testing these waters long ago. I grew up eating only chicken, no red meat bc my paternal grandpa died at the age of 49 of a heart attack. My dad never smoked, quite drinking and implemented a very healthy diet into our lives. He’s the first man to live over 50 on his side. Scary. But also proof.

    Preventative care is the way to live. It’s not about I’m too young blah blah blah, you have to start living healthy at a young age and making good decisions. So important I think.

    • So wonderful that your family made the changes and you can see the proof in your dad! I’m the first generation to think this way in my family…

  8. Good for you, Jen. Genes are funny things. Colon cancer runs in my family, big time. But so does “living to an insanely old age with colon cancer” – my great-grandmother passed away at 106 and my grandfather passed away at 93, and everyone else is still alive. So, as my doctor said, on balance, the genetic mix my family carries and that I know I’ve passed on to my kids has its blessings too. But you better believe we eat the heck out of cruciferous veggies. Brussels sprouts and broccoli, FTW!

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