#350 Is it Your Genes or Your Lifestyle that Determines How Long You’ll Live?

Is it Your Genes or Your Lifestyle that Determines How Long You’ll Live?

Many of my patients believe that their fate in terms of heart disease and early mortality is solely written in their genes. They often tell me things like, “My grandma and mom both had atrial fibrillation, so it was no surprise when I was diagnosed with it.” But it’s essential to consider whether they shared the same genes or simply shared a similar lifestyle. In other words, their shared lifestyle choices might have contributed to their same health issues, like fitting into the same-sized jeans and experiencing Afib.

A New Study on Genes vs Lifestyle:

A recent study involving 5,446 women with an average age of 78.2 years shed light on this subject. Researchers examined their key longevity-related genes and monitored their physical activity by strapping accelerometers onto them. After six years of observation, 1,022 of these women had passed away.

The findings were clear: Irrespective of your genetic makeup, the more physically active you are, the longer you tend to live. Similarly, sitting less correlates with an extended lifespan. When it comes to longevity, the influence of physical activity significantly outweighs the genetic hand you’ve been dealt.

These results align with a wealth of other studies, all pointing to the same adage: “Move it or lose it.” If you stop moving, you risk losing the ability to move as you age. Additionally, reduced physical activity makes it increasingly difficult to maintain mobility in later life. As the saying goes, “motion is lotion,” and it holds true – if we don’t move, we may eventually lose the ability to move.

What do other study say on genes versus lifestyle?

A second study focused on the lives of nearly 3,000 identical and fraternal twins from Denmark, taking into account both genetic and environmental factors. So, while these individuals shared nearly identical genetic backgrounds, they displayed a wide range of medical conditions and lifespans. Their conclusion was enlightening – “longevity seems to be only moderately heritable.” For women, they estimated that approximately 26 percent of longevity was influenced by heredity, and for men, it was about 23 percent. The rest, they affirmed, is within our control.

In a third study, researchers analyzed 54 million family trees utilizing data from Ancestry.com. Astonishingly, they found that only 7 percent of a person’s lifespan can be attributed to their genes.

Our Research Findings on Genes versus Lifestyle

In our bestselling book, “The Longevity Plan,” we embarked on an incredible journey to unravel the mysteries of long and healthy lives. Our destination: China, where we conducted a remarkable five-year study of centenarians, individuals who had reached the extraordinary age of 100 and beyond. What we discovered was truly astonishing.

At first glance, it appeared that these centenarians possessed genes that, by all predictions, should have made them vulnerable to heart disease, dementia, and early mortality. But here’s the incredible twist: these remarkable individuals had not fallen victim to these grim predictions. Instead, they were living vibrant, healthy lives well into their 100s. How did they manage this seemingly miraculous feat? The answer, we found, lay not in their genes, but in their lifestyle.

You see, it’s not just about the genes you inherit; it’s about how you influence them through the way you live your life. This concept can be summed up in one word: epigenetics. Think of your genes as the instructions for your body’s functions. Epigenetics, in essence, is like the conductor of an orchestra, telling the genes which notes to play and when to play them.

The centenarians we studied had genes that could have played a rather unpleasant tune—heart disease, dementia, and early demise. However, their extraordinary longevity was a result of their lifestyle choices. These choices effectively “reprogrammed” their genes, like a skilled conductor guiding an orchestra toward a beautiful symphony.

So, what can we learn from these remarkable individuals? Your genes might set the stage, but you hold the conductor’s baton. With a healthy lifestyle, you can lead your genes toward harmony, ensuring that they play a melody of long-lasting health and vitality, instead of a tune of illness and aging. It’s a powerful reminder that the choices you make today can pave the way for a long and vibrant life tomorrow.

Your DNA is Not Your Destiny

These four studies collectively emphasize one essential truth: your DNA is not your destiny. Even if your ancestors suffered from heart disease or early mortality, it doesn’t mean you are fated to the same outcome. Ultimately, it’s not your genes but your lifestyle choices that predominantly determine your susceptibility to health issues in this lifetime.

What do I tell my heart patients?

So, what’s the daily prescription I give to my patients for a long, joyful, and healthy life? It’s genuinely straightforward: prioritize a diet rich in natural, plant-based foods to maintain a healthy weight. Dedicate an hour each day to exercise. Ensure you get at least seven hours of restful sleep every night, and seek treatment if you have sleep apnea. Incorporate daily stress-reduction practices. Lastly, make ample time for friends, family, neighbors, and the community – these connections are invaluable to a long and fulfilling life. Your destiny is in your hands, not in your genes.

About the Photo

Incorporating the captivating essence of our blog post’s photo, it captures the idyllic scene of sheep leisurely grazing against the stunning backdrop of the Park City ski resort, set under the golden hues of a late October afternoon. This particular day was not just about the breathtaking landscape, but also a tale of adventure and exploration. My son and I were embarking on a remarkable 26-mile, 3.5-hour mountain bike journey that wound its way through a dynamic terrain, seamlessly connecting the mid-mountain and Wasatch Crest trails. As we traversed these scenic routes, the sheep’s serene presence served as a reminder of the tranquility that can be found in the heart of the wilderness.


The information provided in this blog article is intended for general informational purposes only. It should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.

  1. I really enjoy reading your newsletters. Love the information and the inspiration!
    Thank you so much!!