Sunday, December 12, 2010

Counterpoint to Medical Mythology

Personal responsibility key to health
Letter to the Editor
Sunday December 5, 2010
The Nov. 25 article "Family history key to health" is misleading. While the family history can contribute to understanding the clinical picture and, in some cases, may help guide diagnostic and treatment decisions and protocols, it far from 'the secret to great health and longevity.'
This article strongly contributes to the outdated and false notion that "you are your genes," a notion that undermines the far more important, and true secret to health, personal responsibility in lifestyle choices. It has been estimated that genes account for only 25-30 percent of your health destiny, while lifestyle choices and exposures account for 70-75 percent.
The article falsely implies that "numerous health scourges, including cancers of the colon, breast and uterus; early coronary and vascular diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, arthritis" and more are genetic diseases, when in fact they are not. They are chronic degenerative diseases associated with lifestyle choices. Their strongest link with family history has way more to do with growing up in the family home, adopting the same family lifestyle choices (eating and exercise habits and coping skills), and having the same environmental exposures.
Way too often inaccurate and false media stories such as this perpetuate medical mythologies that support widespread public misconceptions and fears about health. Misguided beliefs, such as genetic pre-determinism, undermine health by short-circuiting personal responsibility and the positive actions people can take to optimize their health.
The fact is that genetic diseases are rare. The fact is that you have the ability to maximize your genetic potential for health by the decisions you make on a daily basis about what you choose to eat, how much exercise and sunlight you choose to get, and how you choose to think, interact and cope with people and your world.
North Adams

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