Your Children’s Legacy

This web site focuses on maintaining health and wellness.  That’s why I’m writing about an invisible lifelong family legacy that you can pass on to future generations by simply making an educational decision.

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Epigenetics is the chemical modification of genes and how the information in our genes is expressed and used by our cells – how cells read our genes.  The scientific journal Nature Neuroscience (June 2004) proved and reinforced this evidence.  A mother’s behavior can cause epigenetic changes in her child (DiscoverMagazine.com 5/2018).   What grandma and grandpa do and what parents do, influences their descendents.

Timing matters.  When the  brain of a 2 year old is influenced the affect is more long lasting  than when middle aged adults are targeted.  Neural communication, brain development and function reveal more methylation at a younger age. Researchers at Yale University published their study of Russian orphans documenting this finding(Szyf/Meaney). These altered traits on the affected genes can be transmitted to the next generation (Science, Jan., 25).  Epigenetic changes in certain regions of the brain underlie our intellectual intelligence – our ability to learn…(DiscoverMagazine.com5/2018).

Medscape (American Nurse Today 2017;12(10) relates that Epigenetic changes the DNA and interfers with transcription and alterations which affects how cells read and interpret genes that results in visible characteristics(phenotypes).  A collection of chemical tags, like methlation, can interfere with transcription to turn genes on or off and help fine-tune gene expression (protein production) in response to what’s happening in the environment.

The New York Times recent publication (July, 2018) reports on a new study by Nature Genetics.  This study finds that many of the genetic variations related to educational attainment are involved in how neurons communicate in the brain.  A striking number are involved in relaying signals out of neurons and into neighboring ones through connections called synapses.

Daniel J. Benjamin, a behavioral economist at the University of Southern California in association with UK Biobank in Britain and 23andMe began sharing information and found a number of genetic variations that are unusually common in people who finished a lot of school.  The variants are linked to genes active in the brain, helping neurons to form connections.  The key to educational attainment may not be how quickly information is acquired, but how quickly it can be shared between various regions.

Some variants linked to education work not in the brains of students, but in the people they inhertited the variants from – their parents (Epigenetics).

By somehow shaping the educational behavior of parents, these variants may alter the environments in which children grow up in a way that helps or impinges on time spent in school.

I was the first woman in my family to attend and graduate from college.  I didn’t have a person in my immediate or extended family to guide me through the process.  Attaining an associate, bachelor and master’s degree has made a difference in my financial and personal life. However, following this example, my siblings attended various educational institutions.  Since then my children and granddaughter have made the decision to either attend or graduate from college.

Is there educational behavior based on a gene profile?   Is there a genetic “score” for educational success?  Based on the methylated changes on a person’s genetic code, the answer would be – probably.  The longer your ancestors stayed in school the more probable you will too.

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Sports, Sex, Sizzle

So what makes us feel good, what makes us sizzle?  According to an article by Salynn Boyles from the archives of WebMD, athletes who encounter unavoidable injuries in playing sports can play through the pain because they have a higher tolerance than a “couch potato.”  The report expands the theory that physical activity boosts levels of chemicals that mimic the effects of “feel good” and pain-relieving opioids, known as endorphins.  Seems as though we can get a feel-good high from physical exercise – we “sizzle.”

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However, Allan Basbaum, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco indicates that it’s both the brain and the blood that “sizzle” with endorphins when our body is charged and feeling good.

A study in Time Health (Fall 2018 p. 11) relates that sexual experiences with a committed partner give rise to a personal reaffirmation and a sense of benevolence that is beneficial to the relationship. This sort of sexual experience seems to improve well-being through a rush of emotions that spread hormones throughout our brain and body – again we “sizzle.”  Humans’ deep need to belong is likely at the root of this effect according to Todd Kashdan et. al., at George Mason University who published a paper in Emotion.  This study also indicated that the day after the sexual encounter occurred the people involved were less concerned with how others viewed them and they held themselves in higher esteem – indicating that the “sizzle effect” is lasting. Romantic relationships flourish with satisfying and intimate sexual contact which gives rise to personal reaffirmations.  Sex is important in the well-being of an adult relationship.

Maybe you don’t feel like “sizzling.”  You’re tired, worried about work, don’t feel good, your partner relationship has gotten boring or your energy level is just plain empty.  There are some suggestions that might help.  An article by Gina Shaw in WebMD indicates a little spice might be needed.  Biological evidence shows that participating in new and novel experiences stimulate the chemical dopamine which affects the pleasure center of your brain – again you “sizzle.

Tom DiChiara suggests yet another option.  Grunting, bench pressing, Downward Dogs, sprinting, boxing and stopwatches may not be a dream date with your significant partner but that may be exactly what your relationship needs.  Working out as a couple gets both of you into a training routine.  Since you already know that physical exercise stimulates  “feel good” endorphins both you and your partner can “sizzle” together first at the gym and afterward at home.

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Sex and sports helps us “sizzle”, what’s not to like – I’ll leave you with that thought.

Epigenetics

A simple definition of this exciting scientific arena is the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes “on” and “off.”  A recent web-based explanation of this emerging medical field takes a walk through the complicated steps to simplify the complicated knowledge.

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Cells are our basic working units and these energetic cacoons contain the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) which are the chemical directors of activities.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is composed of nucleotide bases which we all know as the recognizable “double helix” of our basic building proteins – adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine.  You may be more familiar with the letters – A, C, G, and T.

Sequencing of these bases is what determines the life instructions for each person – blue eyes, brown hair, long fingers.

Genes are the conductors of the sequencing and provide direction for triggering proteins to carry out life functions.

Epigenetics Controls Genes.  This means that what you experience in your daily life influences this “on” “off” process. The chemical process influencing this activation process can and will modify the “potential” of our individual genes.

The reason this is both interesting and important is that current and ancestral personal activities influence this process.  The chemical influence of methylation which modifies our genes can be passed on from generation to generation.  Scientists verify that astronauts returning from outer space experience this methylation change and the gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9 is being used to prevent detrimental genetic effects to the astronauts.  In other words, the harmful effects from outer space noted on the astronauts DNA are being removed by gene splicing so that they will not be passed on to the next generation of their family. (Science Oct 28, 2017, 1:43 pm)

This may sound like science fiction.  However, this process is called molecular engineering technologies and scientist can counteract and repair defective genes.

Your DNA also contains information about your health and your grandmother’s health.  Your risk for developing specific diseases is sitting in your genes and can be read like a movie.  Genetic testing can determine your tendency toward developing chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s,  Alzheimer’s, diabetes, auto-immune diseases, macular degeneration and a host of other conditions. (WebMD Sonya Collins – Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD June 2017)

There is also a significant legacy that each person carries with them from their ancestors.  The methylation changes to our DNA carries the memory of our family’s life.  In this regard not only do we need to consider the obvious medical concerns but the emotional issues as well.  If your grandmother lived in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship for an extended period of time this environment left a noticeable methylation mark on her DNA.  A study by The Guardian (social-care-network/2015) noted that often times adolescent boys who are abused become abusers.  An additional study by DiscoverMagazine.com/May/2013, “Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes” indicates that a mother’s behavior could cause epigenetic changes in her DNA.  Another publication in the journal Nature Neuroscience (June/2004) verified this scientific finding.  These studies referred to their findings as a post-natal inheritance.  There is additional scientific information that similar activity is occurring during a mother’s developing pregnancy.

In other words, we’re not only what we experience but what our ancestor’s experience.

However, do not dismay.  You can influence this process.  Knowledge is the first step.  If you know your risk and your lifestyle triggers, you can establish protective measures with the goal of preventing the onset of illness or destructive behaviors.  Having a tendency toward something doesn’t mean that you’ll develop that issue.  It simply means that you have information about yourself and your genetic mutation to fit into your preventative maintenance program to help tailor your strategies; it’s a plan.

 

Violence

The issue of violence is a glaring item in news articles today. As I research the topic I am often lead back to the item of “parent-child” bonding. Someone said to me, “All incarcerations include a story of the interruption of parent-child bonding early in the child’s life.”  Even though this statement seems intense, there is a hidden kernel of truth traveling throughout the words.

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A parenting enhancement program called The Family Thriving Program (FTP) uses a re-framing approach to adjust a parent’s attitude if their newborn is born in less than an optimal nurturing environment.  Less than optimal is defined as: a parent’s history of unemployment, past history of own abuse, lack of support, unstable housing.  The goal is to assist parents to become competent and independent problem solvers.  This program also looks at newborns at medical risk, i.e. preterm, cesarean birth or any infant/parent pair that has experienced an interruption in the bonding process.   This program also measures the child’s cortisol level.  Cortisol is associated with stressors, such as maternal stress or maternal depression, show elevated cortisol levels.   According to a report by the Promising Practices Network (retrieved 7/19/2018), elevated cortisol levels in early life are associated with reduced capacity for learning and memory later in life (Jameison and Dinan, 2001).

This FTP program incorporates the home visitation program offering support, information, education, problem-solving rethinking exercises, motivational re-framing of commonly-occurring challenges and general problem-solving strategies.

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The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines child abuse and neglect as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver (e.g., clergy, coach, teacher) that results in harm, the potential for harm, or the threat of harm to a child.  This definition falls under the definition of violence; abuse is violence.  Violence against children and child abuse affects children’s health now and later and is a costly venture for our country.

1 in 4 children suffered abuse – this translates into 676,000 children being confirmed by Child Protective Services as being victims of abuse and neglect in 2016

1 in 4 children (at least) suffered neglect sometimes in their life

1 in 7 children experienced abuse or neglect in the LAST YEAR

1,750 children died from abuse/neglect in 2016

An organized response to child maltreatment didn’t begin until 1874 in the U.S.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) affects 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the U.S. in their lifetime.  These people have experienced an intimate relationship.  A common thread that links victims of IPV is that the victim knows the perpetrator, knows him or her well, and vice versa.  IPV involves physical or sexual violence or stalking and psychological aggression, including coercive acts, by a current or former intimate partner.

An emotional tie often hinders a person’s ability to protect themselves against violence inflicted by their partner.  When a relationship turns violent, devotion can become deadly, giving a frightening and disturbing tone to the expression “till death do us part.” (American Nurse Today, Vol. 12, No. 3)

Workplace violence according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) occurs on a regular basis.  75% of nearly 25,000 workplace assaults occur in a healthcare or social service setting.  However, we know that this number is underreported since only 30% of nurses report violent incidents.  American Nurses Association President Pam Cipriano, Ph.D., RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, states: “Abuse is not part of anyone’s job and has no place in healthcare settings…”  As of December 2017, Medscape Medical News poll includes a poll of 569 nurses, 73% of female nurses and 46% of male nurses reported being sexually harassed.  Emotional and physical harm can be devastating.

There are a variety of public resources if anyone is at risk for abuse.

National Domestic Violence Hotline – 800-799-7233 (www.ndvh.org)

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (www.ncadv.org)

Stop Abuse for Everyone – (503)853-8686) (www.safe4all.org)

Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women – (888-7HELPLINE) (www.dahmw.org)

Futures Without Violence: The National Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence (888-792-2873) (www.futureswithoutviolence.org)

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I will leave you with a thought to ponder.  There is a field of medical study called epigenetics.  This field relates how a person’s cells read their genes.  It doesn’t alter the DNA code sequence but it influences how the gene is expressed.  An article in Discover Magazine (5/26/2018) and in the journal Nature Neuroscience (June 2004) relate this medical genetic coding issue.  When two scientists, Meaney and Szyf conducted tests in genetic coding and genetic attachment (epigenetics) they noted changes not only in the brain of their test subjects but their genes as well.  The scientist also found by examining blood tests that these changes were passed on to the subject’s offspring thereby altering how gene information was expressed in the next generation.  According to this recognized study, “early stress in a child’s life impacts long-term programming of genome functioning.  Author Elena Grigorenko of the Child Study Center at Yale, states “parenting adopted children might require much more nurturing care to reverse these changes in genome regulation.”

Possibly, we can decrease the incidence of violence and abuse by kissing, hugging and nurturing our babies, and showing people in our lives that we care for them on a regular basis.  If we love and nurture the people in our present generation then they may in turn love and nurture the people in the next generation…

 

Eye Contact

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EYE CONTACT

The best way to leave a lasting impression is to make eye contact. “Secrets to Making Non-Awkward Eye Contact” The Muse – Tools & Skills – 2018 Lily Zhang – Career Development Specialist at MIT.  Obviously, this is something we all understand but it’s satisfying to know that the professionals who work in the field also verify our hunches. The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus (2007) defines the EYE as an organ of sight, a faculty of discrimination; something having an undeveloped bud or the calm at the center of a cyclone.  The definition of CONTACT from this same source is listed as the touching or meeting of bodies where a connection or relationship or communication is formed. Eye contact is important in our everyday life.  Dale Carnegie, the world-renowned speaker and inspirational guide, suggests that you make eye contact with someone long enough to register what eye color they have before looking away.  Somehow this seems instinctual; we do it without thinking about it.  Katherine Schreiber and Heather Hausenblas, Ph.D. (Co-authors of The Truth About Exercise Addition) relate in their article posted 9/20/2016 and verified by Psychology Today “What Eye Contact Can Do to You,” that newborns pay more attention to faces with eyes gazing directly at them than to faces with eyes looking off in the distance.  Even babies have the inborn desire to scan a human face looking for information.  There is also an indication that eye contact is crucial for successful early childhood/parent bonding.  This type of eye contact engagement may enhance memory for the child’s decision-making process.

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Eyes of Babies

Eye contact can have a memory-boosting effect as long as it’s wanted by the person being looked at.  So, make eye contact work to your advantage.  Sean Cooper (The Shyness & Social Anxiety Guy) viewed 7/15/2018 “How To Make Eye Contact Without Feeling Awkward,”  indicates that there is a socially acceptable time frame for maintaining eye contact before the technique becomes staring or inappropriate.  So, how long is too long?  Sean gives us a guideline for eye contact:

  •  eye contact with talking – 1/3 of the time
  • eye contact with listening – 2/3 of the time
  • eye contact with everyday conversation – spurts of 3-4 seconds during the verbal exchange

Since most human contact tends to be non-verbal (a study at UCLA indicated that 93% of communication is not verbal), that means we talk with a combination of body language and eye contact.  Wow, what a great opportunity to let another human being know how you’re feeling and what your opinions are about life.  Your eyes are your “scouts.”  They scan the horizon much like the advance scouts did in the days of the ole’ west when the military was traveling on maneuvers in the hot desert.   Processing of the information is the same: gathering, assessing and decision making.  It’s just as vital today to make the correct decision with the incoming information that you receive from eye contact.  Every day we all make connections through eye contact so you may want to pay attention to the cues coming from the person you’re looking at: it’s a good idea.

Fingerprints

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Fingerprints are generally described as: impressions forming a pattern made by pressing the tip of a finger on a surface taken for the purpose of identification, (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus). We are familiar with the physical prints used to determine identification.  Such information is gathered when public agencies determine someone’s true persona or we need to prove our own identity.

Forensic marks, small pieces of nature that we interact with in our daily lives, also leave a trail for others’ to follow when attempting to analyze our interactive history.   If we touch a flower we pick-up and deposit bits of the pollen.  When we walk through the woods we crunch a variety of leaves on the forest floor.  These bits and pieces of debris attach to our shoes and socks and eventually fall off onto other places on which we place our shoes, i.e. bedroom rug, kitchen floor, car mats, gym equipment.  They tell everyone that we have been walking in the woods.  This evidence can even pinpoint the types of trees and flowers that were growing in the area.

There are also psychological fingerprints that we leave on others’ lives when we interact with them.  These imprints don’t fade from the lives that we touch.  The consequences of these interactions, these fingerprints,  linger after we communicate with the people in our lives.   These ripples of our interactions are like a shower that rains down evidence of our emotions, feelings, actions, motives and hidden agendas all of which tells, anyone who is astute enough to examine the debris that is left from the exchange, what our true intentions are when initiating the encounter.

Tracing this psychological evidence is a science.  Matching the ridges of physical fingerprints is a science. Analyzing the impressions is a specialty.  Your prints on others’ lives are lasting whether they be physical, forensic or psychological – it’s your job to make them either famous or infamous.