Many of us are concerned about how to protect ourselves from disease. Are there things we can do to ameliorate the role genetics play in the development of illness?

The answer may be yes.

A study reported in Scientific American offers hope about the control we have when it comes to fighting heart disease.

The authors of the study report that those who had a genetic marker for heart disease had a lower risk of illness when they consumed fruits, raw vegetables and nuts.

Indeed, others have speculated that what we do behaviorally can impact whether or not our genetic predispositions lead to illness. Regarding diet and other illnesses, another recent study  found that breast cancer cells were less likely to grow in the presence of resveratrol, one of the substances found in red wine. Keep in mind this latter study involved breast cancer cells in a petri dish and not actual people.

Nevertheless, there is evidence that we can help our bodies prevent disease by eating healthy and nutritious foods. Maybe, the old saying, we are what we eat has some truth.

We have to be careful in over-interpreting these studies, however, particularly when they are dealing with cells and not human beings. Remember how broccoli was thought to be the magic vegetable to prevent cancer? There is likely no one food, consumed in isolation, which can prevent disease. Rather, a healthy lifestyle, in which a number of nutritious foods are a daily part of one’s diet, may be the key.

Wellness is not all in the body, however. The human mind does matter. Particularly in heart disease, a number of psychological factors influence illness, as strongly as other environmental factors do. Recent research suggests that severe anxiety and depression influence many illnesses, but especially heart disease, making the need for psychological interventions more important than ever for those struggling with illness. 

That said, take control where you can. Eat fruits, vegetables and nuts, and if you can stand it, reduce your meat intake for good measure. Enjoy some red wine with your food as well, just not too much.