Some people have adopted a lackadaisical attitude toward healthy eating and exercise. Some people even think that your body only has a certain amount of energy and that exercising regularly depletes that store so that it is bad for you.
In December of last year, the New England Journal of Medicine published an amazing article that didn’t get much media attention. In it, the Harvard University authors looked at four different studies which had collected blood from participants, followed them over time, and looked at outcomes. The researchers then did genetic analysis on the blood samples to find out what overall genetic risk people in the various studies had for vascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes.
All of these studies had kept track of whether people had smoked, exercised regularly, had eaten a healthy diet, or were obese. Then, they compared the outcomes as well as the results of a coronary calcium scan done in a subset of the patients.
What they found was the opposite of what most of us are led to believe. It turns out that lifestyle is much more important in determining vascular disease risk than genes. While the people with genetic risk had higher rates within groups, the lifestyle factors had a much greater effect. The people with the best lifestyle and the worst genetic risk had lower rates of coronary artery disease than the people with the worst lifestyle and the least genetic risk.
Since we don’t get to pick our genes yet, our best bet is to maximize the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Give up cigarettes if you haven’t yet. Avoid fatty foods, processed meats, refined sugars and snack foods of all types. Exercise regularly and use the metabolic benefits of the improved diet and exercise to get to a healthy weight.
Don’t believe those who suggest that exercise will deplete your body of energy. Quite the opposite, it helps keep you healthy and alive, but not by itself. What you eat matters even more!
When you live the right lifestyle, your genes turn out to be little more than background noise. When you get lifestyle wrong, it’s like giving your genes free rein to shorten your life