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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Taking a Moment

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It’s a good time of the year to reflect on some of the articles about my adventures.  As I place them together the collection seems a little small compared to the busy beehive of activity that’s been buzzing around my life.

Additionally, as I co-host on the Talk Radio show, Aspects of Writing that is designed to inspire viewers and writers to focus on concerns in today’s society, my schedule fills up quickly.

Response from LinesofListeningblog.wordpress.com continues at a steady pace.

Anticipation grows as my next book “Ripples in the Generations” is just coming out of the book cover design process.

Someone needs a moment; it may be me.

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.

Vitrification

Vitrification is a process of converting a material into a glass-like amorphous solid that is free from any crystalline structure, either by the quick removal or addition of heat or by mixing with an additive.  So, what does this mean and why am I writing about it?

Well, your most recognizable example of this process occurs as you walk along the beach and you find a solid form of light-brown tinted glass lying in the sand.  When lightning strikes enough sand it can create glass.  In this case, the sand heats up and liquefies, then rapidly cools into a glass-like state.  When you reach down and pick up this vitrified glass you’re holding evidence of nature changing itself.

We can take a lesson from nature.  Feeling awkward in social situations or being mentally challenged often increases our body temperature because our innate “flight-or-flight” preservation response tells us that our system is under attack.  Things are heating up for us, we are getting hotter; sweating, dry mouth, jittery, nervous are all responses that we know.

Do we need to change?  Does the heat that we’re experiencing indicate that we’re getting ready for the proverbial bolt from above?  Will changing help us feel comfortable?  Well, nature seems to understand change fairly well and accepts the idea as part of life.  Could it be that we are stubborn when the need for change comes our way?  I think that we all agree – a bolt of lightning is extreme and no one wants to experience a fast, atmospheric, electric flash with enough energy to discharge itself and change us into glass.

Vitrification is extreme.  Maybe a slow, uncomfortable burn is more manageable when we are looking for clues of change.  We want to feel good, relate well with our partner, enhance our well-being and mental ability in a low anxiety environment.  No one wants to get zapped with high-voltage electricity!  Embracing the need for change may be a powerful potential antidote to loneliness or social isolation – “therapy without a therapist.”

Making change when we first feel uncomfortable in social situations may be the key to a comfortable transition.  Introducing small adjustments to our daily lives before big changes are needed seems logical.  It’s like experiencing light rain with far-off thunder instead of standing in a hurricane with the constant threat of a lightning strike.

Do You Feel the Anxiety?

As we enter the month of December the feeling of free-floating anxiety is rising.  There seems to be an unwritten rule that we must perform unusual social activities with our friends and casual acquaintances for the next few weeks in order to fulfill an invisible cultural norm.

This duty requires our appearance at social functions that are often scheduled to include potluck meals prepared with high-calorie foods that we prepare late at night with ingredients we normally wouldn’t purchase.  We do this so that our potluck dish will be noticed among all of the other specially prepared meals.  Of course, we also are socially obliged to eat portions of these dishes so that we can fulfill the invisible cultural norm.

As the month of Christmas-tide begins most of us make a mental resolution to manage our sleep routine so that getting enough much-needed shut-eye is a priority.  However, bedtime bleeds into the wee hours as we try to check up on our emails.  Since we are exhausted after a difficult day at the office most of us will try to catch a few winks on the couch before dinner – invariably then we can’t fall asleep at night.  If we do manage to fall asleep all of the festive issues swirling around the season wash through our brain with worry and concern.  When we can’t sleep we get out of bed, turn on the TV and watch the latest re-run of a 20 year old western even though we know that this artificial light interferes with our body’s production of melatonin.

So, now we have eaten too much unhealthy food, socialized with people we don’t know or even like and when we do finally get to bed, we can’t sleep.  Does this sound familiar?

Take a breath.  Understand that you can manage Christmas-tide because you have three tools on your December calendar.  These tools will work well for you because you’re putting them to work early in the month.  They’re easy and free.  Since you know what’s coming in the Christmas-tide from your past experiences you’ll now be prepared to handle situations.  These tools assist you when you feel the anxiety of the season.

  •  Schedule your time
  •  Eat healthy food
  •  Plan for setbacks

These three powerful tools may seem simple and logical but if you put them into practice NOW and physically write them on your December calendar you’ll be successful in using these expert tools.  I know that you’ll make a mental resolution to write the physical words on your calendar or type them into your laptop but I want you to do it NOW. When you feel the anxiety, read the tools!

Purpose

I was listening to an interview with a prominent sports marketing and memorabilia entrepreneur.  This person has overcome multiple challenges in his life to become successful.  These struggles facing humiliation and embarrassment solidified his purpose at a young age.  His focus which was forged into a purpose centers around developing healthy relationships.

It’s obvious that this person is a prominent figure in today’s sports arena.  He has strategically developed business relationships throughout his tenuous career.  Therefore, he enjoys conversational dialogues with well-known athletes.   His personal relationship skills have developed through years of interactions in multiple business ventures.

His personal skills have been finely honed into a detection monitor for the finer things in life.  Although money is important and needed for daily existence the real and sustaining value lies closer to everyone’s reach.  It is something that can be developed and nurtured by anyone desiring to have a rich and full life.  This ‘finer thing’ requires attention to developing problem-solving abilities and upgrading your listening skills.

The purpose of developing healthy relationships is a lifelong skill.   It involves struggling with life’s challenges, appreciating your life, trusting in the goodness of people, looking honestly at disappointments, disassembling your old notions of bias and being charitable toward other’s faults.  In order to have healthy relationships with people, you have to talk to and interact with people.  I know that sounds obvious but the idea can be scary to some people.  Often, people who are skilled at playing hardball in the business world find it difficult to interact in the personal arena with others.  For some reason, these hard-hitting entrepreneurs find that dealing with another human being on a strictly personal level is terrifying.

However, this terror is quickly overcome when a ‘purpose’ is the main focus.  Purpose trumps everything.  Especially when you truly care for people you’ll find that if you decide that your purpose is healthy relationships that’s where your focus will be.  Fostering your interactions with the people that you care for will melt away all of the incidentals in life.  I’m not saying that food or clothing or shelter aren’t vitally important because they are but if you decide that your purpose in life is healthy relationships with yourself and others, the essentials of life will also fit nicely into your life.

The purpose of life is to remember that people are more important than things.

 

Weight or Wait

Grandma’s experiences influence our DNA structure.  The science of Epigenetics studies the chemical modification of genes and how the information in our genes is expressed and used by our cells.

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The reason this concept of weight is important is that if grandma is obese that tendency is imprinted on her DNA and can be genetically passed to her descendants. (DiscoverMagazine.com) Epigenetics doesn’t alter the sequence but influences our gene expression.

A Redbook article (Wrangle Your Stress, Sept.2018) relates that when we’re stressed our body shifts into a fight-or-flight mode.  This hormonal shift signals our body to conserve energy since we’re under attack; our metabolism slows.  This situation also signals the stress hormone, cortisol which increases hunger motivating us to eat foods high in sugar and fat according to Jessica Bartfield, M.D., assistant professor in the Weight Management Center at Wake Forest Medical Center in North Carolina.

This theme of stress and survival imprints on grandma’s DNA and functions much like a stop light; turning “on” or “off” a particular DNA expression. So, if grandma experienced stress on a regular basis the imprint of obesity sits on her DNA and is passed on to her descendants as a potential expression.

An article in WebMD (July/Aug2018) relates that childhood obesity rates continue to rise in the U.S.  The researchers voiced concern that excess weight has become so common that many parents may now see it as normal.

Another study noted in HealthyDay (Sep 19, 2018) relates a quote by Mark Eberhardt, an epidemiologist at CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) “Diabetes remains a chronic health problem in this country, affecting some 30 million people.”  This idea is reinforced by the fact that 1 in 7 Americans has diabetes, and many don’t know they have the disease.

Medscape Medical News Jan 20, 2017, cites that the epidemic of obesity is affecting society’s youngest members, driving up rates of type 2 diabetes from infancy to the college years.  Severe obesity is a cause of type 2DM.  Not the only cause, but a direct one.  Increasing rates of obesity will lead to more type 2 DM.

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Obviously, all of this medical research proves that obesity affects our DNA and the tendency for obesity can be passed on to our children who in turn can pass the tendency on to their children.  “Therefore grandma’s experiences leave a mark on your genes.”

So, the question is do we wait to address the issue of obesity?  Since there is scientific evidence that the altered trait of obesity can be transmitted to our grandma’s descendants is it time to integrate genetics into our weight management program?  Waiting to make this change may ensure that the tendency for obesity keeps integrating throughout our coming generations.

Should we wait to act on the weight issue?

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.

 

CLUES

How do we define disease? How do we define health?

These seem like easy questions to answer.  We know when someone is sick or when they’re without illness; it’s obvious. We can tell when our body isn’t working “up to par.”

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CLUES are interesting little bits of information that swirl around our everyday lives guiding us through the intricate maze of evidence that can lead us to a solution to our problems.  Often these little, sometimes annoying, indicators lead us to a complete understanding of the issues in our lives, all we need to do is take a few minutes to understand the story that they’re telling us.

As we go along our day performing our comfortable habits in our normal routine these tiny indications slowly creep into our awareness and take on the persona of an aggravating gnat. As usual, we flick this tiny suggestion away from our consciousness as though it were a brief inconvenience.

Our vibrancy, wit, and confidence aren’t threatened so why should we give attention to such a minute detail?  Not until or memory, behavior, daily functions and activities begin to falter does our attention focus on our personal health and wellness.  Now, our daily habits are interrupted.  Now, we notice the CLUES that have been circling and buzzing to attract our attention.

Our flexibility and awareness may need to be reset into the ‘priority’ mode especially when it comes to listening to the CLUES that our body is giving us about our health and wellness.

 

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