Submitted by Don and Peggy Doman.
Our parents’ genes determine the material we start with at conception. They determine external things like hair and eye color, short or tall, coordinated or clumsy, able to “see” how to fix mechanical things or able to “hear” how to clearly express concepts. Most importantly, genes control the maximum life span of all living things. A redwood tree has a span of 1,500 years; a mouse, two years; and humans, 115 to 125 years.
But perhaps health span is a more pertinent term. Oregon State University researcher Dr. Tory Hagan says, “Health span is a term that describes how long a person is healthy, enjoying life, doing what one wants to be doing thanks to good health. This is in contrast to ‘life span’, which refers to how long a person lives.”
Hagan’s research shows that cellular repair systems decline with age. He observes that “Mitochondria become more dysfunctional as we age. The mitochondria are specialized organelles in the cell that convert raw fuel from our diet into a usable form of energy currency, ATP.” Older animals do not process this conversion as efficiently. “The mitochondria are not able to utilize raw fuels, especially fatty acids, very well.”
Dr. Linus Pauling’s research shows that vitamin C is a tool that can help our overall health. It’s a very effective antioxidant to help delay mitochondrial decline. Additionally, Hagan found that, “Lipoic acid can directly affect metabolism and is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in green leafy vegetables, as well as in meat. Lipoic acid can directly affect metabolism and, in its free form, is a very potent antioxidant, even more powerful than vitamin C.”
We’re all going to die, but what will our health span be? With exercise and a healthy diet, we can generally alter our health span and our life span. If both your parents died young from heart disease or cancer then most indicators say you won’t live a long life; however there’s no need to order your cremation yet.
Just knowing what health weaknesses you’re predisposed to can help you plan ways to live better. If your family genes show a propensity for heart disease, your doctor may suggest cholesterol lowering drugs; for a colon cancer, you may concentrate on a high fiber diet and regular colonoscopies.
Genes naturally deteriorate over the years. Our life style influences the speed of that deterioration. Short of an accident, natural disaster, pollution or poor choices, we can help keep our genes from quickly degrading so we remain healthy until we reach our natural life span.
Both heart disease and cancer fighting elements are contained in a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and appropriate supplements. You have to work with what you have and do what you can do to increase your health and life span.
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The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.