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Guess What? Your DNA Is Not Your Destiny!

Contrary to popular belief, our DNA is not our destiny. In fact, 80% of how we age is determined by how we behave. We do not inherit bad genes or bad luck -- just bad habits! Should I eat those chips or should I reach for a nutrient dense apple? We all know that choices matter, but how much…really? The answer is actually much more than you might think; enough to change your biology and the expression of your genes! The ever evolving science of “epigenetics” supports the theory that the hundreds of decisions we make every day (and night) shape our future in very significant ways.

“Epigenetics” is the science of how the expression of our genes is modified by our environments. This dynamic process results in very real changes in the activity of our genes, which occur every single day. Our behaviors and choices ‘turn-on’ or ‘turn-off’ gene regulation activity by what foods we choose to eat, the sleep we enjoy (or the lack thereof!), and how we choose to handle stress. All of these decisions and choices have a very real and significant impact on our physical and mental health and well-being -- affecting our energy levels, as well as our personal, professional, and athletic performance. 

We do indeed inherit our DNA with a genetic code that determines a certain number of our unique characteristics, such as our eye and hair color, as well as many other traits and propensities for disease. We can choose to go to the salon and change our hair color temporarily, yet we will have made no impact on our biology for hair color. We can buy a fabulous pair of heels and change the appearance of our height, yet we will return to our original height when we remove our shoes. However, incredibly, we CAN biologically modify the expression of our genes and therefore meaningfully improve our health, well-being, mood, and ability to prevent disease simply by making better choices in our lives.

But beyond improving our own lives, we can even pass along these genetic improvements to our offspring! This is called epigenetic inheritance. We have enormous power to improve our lives and the lives of subsequent generations by choosing to eat healthier food, getting higher-quality sleep, and exercising regularly.

We all want to look and feel great and get the most out of life. We want to be the best version of ourselves. A sexy new handbag or fun new lip color will give us a temporary boost (and ain't nothing wrong with that!), yet a “Medical Makeover” has enduring effects with soul-soaring, transformative results.

The “Medical Makeover” may go as follows:

  • MANAGE YOUR STRESS - We all have it. Though, how you choose to manage it makes all the difference. Exercise, deeper breathing and meditation are all effective in helping us cope with the effects of stress. For example, take 5 deep breaths before breakfast, lunch and dinner to reset your nervous system. This simple technique connects our emotional and physical bodies.
  • EXERCISE - We sit far too much. Take a break from sitting every 30 minutes. Commit to regular exercise a minimum of 30 minutes 3 times per week. A combination of aerobic conditioning (walking counts!) and strength training (hello yoga) is best. You will notice and benefit from immediate results, including better circulation, improved immune function, better sleep, improved heart health and increased self-esteem!
  • EAT HEALTHY(!) - Choose to eat high-quality foods to fuel the demands of every-day life. Eating non-processed foods that are nutrient dense will support a healthy immune system, improve your skin’s appearance, improve mental and physical energy as well as help you prevent acute and chronic diseases (eg. the flu, diabetes, and even cancer). Think lots of vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruit and plenty of water for hydration!
    • SLEEP - We are all wired and tired. Sleep is the undervalued pillar of our health stories. You will experience significant and immediate benefits from “powering down” an hour before bedtime. Turn off your electronic devices (TV too!), thereby allowing your brain to unplug and prepare for high-quality, restorative sleep. Sleep provides you with a reservoir of resilience against life’s challenges (again, stress) and promotes weight-loss.
    • MANAGE YOUR [DE]VICES - We all look for a quick fix. We are tempted to “check-out” when really, we should “check in”. We pour that extra glass of wine to relax, not remembering that it will decrease the quality of our sleep in addition to raising our blood sugar levels -- a major contributor to inflammation. Instead, treat yourself to a relaxing massage or go for an hour-long walk in the park with your favorite music. These are better choices that will improve your physical and mental health and give you an authentic sense of well-being.

    We can nurture our unique nature in powerful ways. I strongly encourage you to take responsibility for the quality of your life by making good choices to support your dreams of living your Highest Self.

    * Dr. Rosenthal is an expert in lifestyle management with a focus on injury prevention, pain management and integrative health. She is a board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation physician in New York City. She is also a consulting physician for the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Metropolitan Opera, MTV Video Music Awards and several Broadway productions.

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