epigenetics |ˌepəjəˈnediks| pl.noun [treated as singular] Biology
the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself
The word ‘epigenetics’ literally means “in addition to changes in genetic sequence.” Epigenetics refers to any process that alters gene activity without changing the DNA sequence and which simultaneously leads to modifications that can be transmitted to daughter cells thereby creating change within the organism. The name was coined in the 1950s and was used to convey how genes interact with their environment in the course of producing observable characteristics of each individual as a result of interacting with his or her surroundings and living conditions.
The gist of it
Some of our genetic factors can predispose us toward certain illnesses. Cardiovascular disease, for example, is more likely to occur in someone whose parent has had the disease.
Epigenetics is the science of disease prevention, and it can offer easy and affordable solutions to combat these predispositions.
Most of us know if we eat fatty foods, are lacking in exercise and smoke cigarettes, we are at elevated risk for heart attack. However, just as we can turn genes on, we can also turn them off. Preventative medicine identifies your genetic predispositions to stop them before they can actually manifest.
Lifestyle is an important factor
In the article, "Epigenetics for Dummies" by John Launer, he refers to the recent near explosion of hype surrounding the topic of epigenetics and the idea of virtually mapping our own genetic destiny. The science behind it is intricate it although the conclusions are sound and basic:
... the lessons being drawn in the hyped articles are usually true in their own right, even if the arguments used to support them are unsound. It certainly makes good sense to provide everyone with good nutrition, a stable upbringing, and a secure social environment, but one scarcely needs an understanding of molecular epigenetics to be convinced of this.
For the non-scientist, the point is well made. Live well. Live as organically, naturally and authentically as possible. Make sure you surround yourself with meaningful, uplifting, supportive and nurturing relationships. If we do this, we increase our opportunities for evolving not just our lives but our genetic structure and our future generations.
Launer J. Postgrad Med J 2016;92:183–184. Postgrad Med J 2016;92:183–184. doi:10.1136/postgradmedj-2016-133993
Epigenetics: the science of change. Weinhold B. Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Mar;114(3):A160-7. No abstract available.