How Do Your Genes Affect The Way You Age?

Did you know that your genes play a role in determining the manner in which you age? Researchers have identified the FOXO3A gene as having a significant impact on your longevity.

Dr Bradley Wilcox is an expert in the field of genetic, environmental and clinical aspects of healthy aging, has widely studied the lifestyle of the Okinawans, a group of people who live healthily and happily into the 100s. He explains that, “in biology, there are four letters of DNA: A, T, C and G. These spell out our entire genetic material. Gene variants occur naturally in humans, and some of these are protective genes, such as the FOXO3A gene.” Some genes have an effect on how your body handles addiction. Click here to find out more. genes | Longevity Live

Known as the “longevity gene”, this can determine lifespan. We get one of these genes from our mother and one from our father; the possible combinations are CC, GC and GG. If you carry the CC gene, you have the potential to live to 100, but the likelihood of living an average lifespan; a CG gene means you have double the chance of living to 100, while the GG gene increases this likelihood three times.

Around 20% of our population has this potential.

However, says Willcox, even if you have this protective gene, it is still important to live a healthy and active lifestyle. And the good news is that if you don’t have the gene activated, but you live a healthy lifestyle, engaging in good stressors, you can switch it on.

The importance of good stressors

Chronic stress leads to inflammation, which in turn affects your immune system, opens you up to disease and lifestyle conditions, and ages you prematurely. But some stress is good for you.

Prof Suresh Rattan, who heads up the Laboratory of Cellular Ageing in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Aarhus University in Denmark, says: “I like to suggest that we age wholistically. I spell it with a ‘w’ on purpose, to reference the word ‘whole’ instead of ‘hole’; the body is a whole, complex, integrated unit.”

So, what is a wholistic process?

Simply put, it is based on the relationship between stress and survival. At low levels, stress supports homeodynamics, which is the essence of survival. Rattan adds that this low level of stress can be seen as the basis of life and, when created in adequate amounts, the basis of healthy aging.

“Everything in the body works with a closely associated biphasic (having two phases) response. An important example of this is hormesis. Hormesis is the process by which the body produces a chemical in response to the introduction of a low level of stress.”

This, he adds, is why exercise works. It is a stress given deliberately to the body. You do not reap the benefits during exercise, but afterwards, when the body is in recovery mode, repairing itself. Low-calorie, balanced diets work in the same way.

It’s good to know that you’re not at the mercy of the genes you were born with. With the right diet and exercise, you can turn on that longevity gene and live a longer, healthier life. Click here to find out how alcohol can be good for you – if you have the CETP gene.