The Element Minute

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Mind Your Heart

February 7, 2021

by Wendy Pecoraro

Mind Your Heart

February is American Heart Month

“We just have bad genes,” one patient lamented about his family history of heart disease. Many of you may have similar stories. There are some stark genetic realities to face but epigenetics is here with a message of hope. Epigenetics is the study of inheritable changes caused by the activation and deactivation of genes without any change in DNA sequence. Think of your DNA as a framework that determines a range of possibilities rather than one fixed outcome. There is substantial evidence that our daily actions (i.e., food choices, movement, time in nature, not smoking, decreasing stress) influence which genetic possibilities become reality.

This hope opens a world of opportunity to intervene and it is never too late. We all have, at least, a concept of what to do. We don’t all know how to do it. A quick internet search will give you an overabundance of diet and exercise advice you can comb through and programs, equipment, or memberships you can buy. You may have done this before – lured by the promises of a quick-fix. However, you’ll find that your approach must work for the body and the life you live in.

Some people need objective information to motivate them to change, so screening blood work can be a good place to start. Also, if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, you’re a smoker or have a family history of premature heart disease there’s also an option to get a Coronary Calcium Screening MRI to detect even small amounts of calcification in your arteries. Once you have this data, you can find your “why.”

Whether your screening tests come back normal or not, knowing why you want to build a healthier body is essential, but it needs to be personalized and meaningful. Your why could be that you want to age strong or you want to run a 5K; or you would like to lose weight and lower your blood pressure. Perhaps your primary motivation is to have a long healthspan rather than just a long lifespan. If this is where you find yourself, it is a great time to reach out for help to customize a plan to mind your heart and your life.

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