The Olympics and DNA

We’re watching the Olympics on a pretty regular basis (at least until 10:00 PM or so). While I love seeing incredible performances, the practical side of me can’t believe the amount of physical effort that’s needed to carry out Olympic feats. And I can’t comprehend how you put that much work into something that has mostly a negative impact on your finances, where the smallest error takes you out of the running, and where you only get to compete every four years!

That being said, look at these folks! Those who succeed have incredible physical abilities built into their DNA. AND I love hearing about the incredible habits that got them this far.

Coinciding with the Olympics, I got results from my 23&Me spit test this week, supplemented with additional info from a site called Promethease. I am amazed at some of the stuff that’s hard-baked into my body. Do I have the genes of an Olympic athlete? No! But here’s a bit of what I learned:

  1. It’s hard for me to metastasize some common medicines including aspirin and asthma inhalers.
  2. My Irish (70% – not a surprise) hair and skin make many cancers more common and give me a 2x-4x higher risk of sun sensitivity (more sunburns/more freckles).
  3. I have all sorts of markers for type 2 diabetes.
  4. It’s harder for me to keep lost weight off without a good bit of physical activity.
  5. I have a reduced response to alcohol which means I have a higher chance of abuse.
  6. I have significantly higher anxiety levels after moderate caffeine consumption.
  7. I have a number of markers for bipolar disease but am 2x less likely to respond well to antidepressants.
  8. I’m able to taste bitter which makes food like brussel sprouts and broccoli taste really interesting but makes coffee and dark beer taste more sour. The bitter taste gene means I have a lower chance of over-eating.

Getting a glimpse of what’s in my genes confirms habits I’ve worked on for much of my life to improve my health: not relying on medicine to cure ailments, staying out of the sun, staying away from sugar, keeping physically active, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, meditating to stay in a strong mental state, and eating lots of veggies!

I thought I’d made decisions about each of these, but what I really did over the years was listen to what my body was telling me and build habits accordingly.

And then there were the studies that show how some of my chromosomes shape my personality.

  • The way my body processes dopamine through oxytocin receptors in the pre-frontal cortex helps me handle stress well, be an empathetic parent, feel less lonely, work well in noisy environments, and seek less support from my peers.

And here’s the report about my gene #rs53576 which is G;G:

  • “Optimistic and empathetic; handles stress well. The one in four subjects who inherited a variation in this allele called G/G were significantly better at accurately reading the emotions of others by observing their faces than were the remaining three-quarters of subjects, who had inherited either a pair of A’s or an A and a G from their parents at this site. Compared to the three-fourths with A/A or A/G variations, the G/G individuals were also less likely to startle when blasted by a loud noise or to become stressed at the prospect of such a noise. And by their own reports, the G/G subjects were mellower and more attuned to other people than were the A/As or A/Gs.”

These last two gene descriptions might explain why I loved running crazy-busy production departments, do well directing in a theater, enjoy hanging out with noisy groups of kids, and perhaps even why I like to write.

I would tell you I work very hard at being productive in demanding situations; my DNA will tell you it’s just how I’m built.

The big takeaways?

  1. You are who you are and the better you understand who that is, the better you’ll be at making decisions that work for you in the long-run. This is true whether you know what’s in your DNA or just pay attention to what your body’s telling you.
  2. If your body/life choices present you with challenges, you can develop habits to make the best of what you have.
  3. Who we are and how we’re made is pretty much a big mystery, isn’t it? But that’s changing fast…

Happy President’s Day/Final week of the Olympics!

Here’s a shot, courtesy of Bill Maxwell, from our weekend snow storm. No worries. It will be 60 on Wednesday and this will all go away! Love spring.

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I welcome your thoughts and suggestions for future posts!


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