“You are your mother’s daughter,” can either be a compliment or a warning, depending on her structure and whether or not she has, at some point, been diagnosed with cancer.
A lot of people associate their fitness level and body weight to two factors — their diet and level of physical activity. They fail to take into account genetics; more appropriately, inherited fitness. This essentially means that your body is genetically predisposed to gain a certain amount of weight. Your fitness level is also highly dependent on your genes. The concept of inherited fitness revolves around the idea that genes dictate how fit you will be. These genes also determine your chances of getting cancer.
Inherited Fitness Level and Aerobic Fitness
If you want to maintain the appropriate weight relative to your height, measured as body mass index or BMI, your goal is cardiorespiratory fitness. This is typically achieved by having a physically active lifestyle. People who have high fitness levels are generally believed to have a lower risk for lifestyle-related diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, as well as chronic diseases like cancer. In fact, cancer patients who exercise regularly are often given a more favorable prognosis for recovery.
Aerobic fitness, which is your ability to transport oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, has a heritable component that is often overlooked. This explains why individuals with higher levels of aerobic fitness perform better than others in response to the same amount of exercise. Their oxygen is transported quicker through the body, which helps them recover quickly and execute fitness moves properly. Aerobically fit individuals are also less winded down after doing a rigorous routine.
It is the same inherited capacity for fitness that led experts to consider whether this affects cancer risks.
Genes and Inheriting Diseases
People inherit diseases on a cellular level.
Cells can sometimes contain variants in the information in the genes called gene mutation. It happens when cells are aging or have been exposed to certain chemicals or radiation. They cause illnesses such as cancer. When the gene mutation exists within egg or sperm cells, children can inherit the mutated gene from their parents. To date, there are over 4,000 diseases caused by genetic variants. Having a disease-causing genetic mutation does not automatically mean that you will inherit the disease, although the chances are pretty high. The problem arises when the gene with the disease is dominant, or when the same recessive disease gene is present on both chromosomes of a pair.
If your mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer, it does not automatically mean you will have it, but it pays to be extra vigilant concerning diet and lifestyle. You also need to get regular checkups because there is a good chance you may get diagnosed with it later in life. As with all types of cancer, early detection is the key to a better prognosis and to increase the chances of survival.
Genetics’ Role in Fitness
There are genes for aerobic fitness and muscular power, as well as for adaptability to training, and for the size and shape of your body. Your DNA affects your fitness, and you draw something different in the genetic lottery, but you can always improve what you’ve got. In line with this, in determining whether physical fitness is nature or nurture, the answer is both. The difference between you and other people is your genes — the concept behind hereditability.
If you’re studying aerobic fitness by observing sedentary people with similar diets, the difference between them is mainly due to their DNA, which means that hereditability will be very high. If you include athletes into the mix, you’ll discover that the difference between the fittest and the least fit person is due to training, so that leaves you with a smaller percentage that you can chalk up to genes.
Trainability, to a certain extent, has a genetic factor too, which means that even if you and your gym buddy follow the same exercise program, there is still a huge chance that one of you will end up stronger and fitter than the other.
Improving what you’ve got
You should never get discouraged by high hereditability traits because they are still subject to change. For instance, obesity is 70% hereditary, but you can still prevent that with diet, exercise, and an overall healthy lifestyle. The same can be said about breast cancer — even if you may inherit it from your mother, there are steps you can take to lower your risk:
- Limit your alcohol intake. The more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk of developing breast cancer. If you must drink, it is recommended that you limit your alcohol intake to one drink a day.
- Don’t smoke. There is rising evidence that supports the link between breast cancer and smoking, particularly in premenopausal women.
- Weight management. Obesity or being overweight increases your chances of getting breast cancer, especially after menopause. Maintaining a healthy weight can lower your risk. One important step is to avoid sugar. Sugar fuels cancer, so following a diet that is low in sugar and carbohydrates can be beneficial. The Mediterranean diet, as well as the Keto or Paleo way of eating, are just some of the diets you can follow to prevent breast cancer.
- Increase your physical activity. Apart from lowering your risk of breast cancer, it also helps you maintain a healthy weight. It is recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity only a weekly basis. It does not have to be much. The point is to get moving every day, even if it’s just brisk walking or climbing the stairs.
- Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution. High doses of radiation can hasten gene mutation. Exposure to toxic substances and pollution also produce similar effects.
Your genes play a significant role in your health and fitness, but ultimately, it is up to you to be in the pink of health.
Do your genes put you at risk?
Your genetic code sets you apart from everyone else, but hereditary factors affect the way your body turns out and how susceptible you are to getting diseases. If you need more information on genetics, schedule a genetic consultation with your trusted medical geneticists. If you would like to know more about treatment recommendations for your cancer risks, please visit New Hope Unlimited or fill out our online form.