Genetics ~ A Death Sentence or a Wake-up Call? #AtoZ

This entry is part 8 in the series Improve Your Life, Improve Your Mind


My father-in-law knew he would die when he reached 74. His father had died at 74, and so had his father before him. Dad died at 94, and only because he fell and broke his hip! People know they will go blind because one of their parents went blind and the disease was hereditary. Others know they have a strong likelihood of Alzheimer’s in their future because several of their previous generation had Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s for the same reason.   

So what is the answer? Are genes a death sentence? Or should they be a wake-up call? Watch this very short clip of two women on an active railway bridge in Ohio, 80 feet in the air. And then we’ll reconsider the question.

In fact, the women lay in the middle of the track and were not killed! But why would you deliberately walk on a railway bridge which is supposed to carry trains?

Railway bridges and genes

Dr. Amen refers to this video clip and asks the question, “What were they doing on an active railroad bridge with no escape route?” He uses this as an illustration for people who know there are brain problems (or other health problems) heading for them because of genes in their family history. He suggests a more sensible response is to make better decisions to get out of the way of the “train”.

Boiling frogs

Remember the boiling frog story? Put a frog in boiling water and it will jump out fast. Put it in cold water and then bring the liquid slowly to the boil, and the frog will cook to death because it doesn’t recognize the danger.

Dr Amen points out how doctors order colonoscopies and gastroscopies, mammograms and PAP smears, cardiac stress tests and a whole host of blood tests to check for any pending issues. Yet they seldom look at the brain which is the organ that runs our bodies! 

Check out that brain!

Throughout this series, we’re looking at various suggestions on how to improve our minds and health, but he suggests we should at least take a regular (annual) test to identify any early warning signs of memory problems. Here are two free options:

Dr. Daniel Amen’s free Brain Health Assessment to discover your Brain Type and your Brain Fit Score!

WebNeuro. This downloads an executable file to your computer which you can then open and work through.

Note that I am not in anyway recommending these. I haven’t done them myself, although I intend to do so once the craziness of April is behind me. But what he says makes sense. Let’s check out that railway bridge for any runaway genetic trains!


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24 comments on “Genetics ~ A Death Sentence or a Wake-up Call? #AtoZ

  1. While family history is a factor, it is not the only thing that determines our path. It is hard though to not feel a sense of foreboding if there are certain health issues in your family tree.

    • Your’e right of course, Karen. But the whole point is that there may well be things we can do to prevent those issues catching us up. So we need to know and recognize them, so we can strengthen those areas.

  2. My Mom was 47 when she died, but she was also overweight, a heavy smoker, and had rheumatoid arthritis. Thankfully, I did not inherit the RA and I’ve never smoked. I’m 65. We aren’t always our heredity but it can be a “heads up” for healthier living and habits, as you point out. As for taking a brain health test – I am not keen on downloading an executable but I have heard of Dr. Amen and I am interested in his assessment.

    • Yes, you’re right, Leanne. All the other factors add in. Rob’s entire older generation of nine had Alzheimer’s (or so it was diagnosed!) So each time he forgets something he is nervous. Meantime, he is way more alert than I am! (Maybe I should be the one worrying! 🙂 Again, a hugely different life-style. And quite possibly it wasn’t even Alzheimer’s but something that the current generation (who are all fine) no longer do.

  3. Ohmygoodness, i am a Mom, and all I could think was “didn’t their Mama teach them not to play on the railroads?” Geeeez!

    It must have been strange for your Dad to turn 74 and 75, and he was still alive and kicking? Good for him, and obviously he didn’t let genetics rule over his life. I guess your mind may play tricks on you. If a doctor tells you you have amount x to live, you make arrangements.

    Food for thoughts!

    I took Dr. Amen’s quiz, it was less than 5 minutes, and the primary results are spot on: creative, motivated if interested, out of the box thinker, restless, busy mind, trouble relaxing.

    • Oh great, thanks for telling me it’s so short. I must do it then. I was putting it off as I have such a crazy month! But 5 minutes I can do! 🙂 Re a doctor telling you how long you have to live, I had cancer, and the surgeon was going to tell me how long I could expect to live and I stopped him. I pointed out that wasn’t his role! He had cut out the primary tumor. How long I lived was in God’s hands. I am SO GLAD I did that. At the end of the year he congratulated me for having lived for a year. He didn’t think I would! That was over TWENTY YEARS AGO!!!

  4. Very interesting post thanks. I think family genetics should be viewed as useful information to guide our life choices. The ‘death sentence’ perspective isn’t helpful. It raises the quality versus quantity (of life) question. If knowing there’s a strong likelihood you’ll die early makes you miserable then it’s probably best not to know!

    • Hi Pete, Yes, that’s my point. Who wants to know you have a death sentence hanging over your head? But if you can see it as a wake-up call, you can take constructive steps that will hopefully change the entire prognosis!

  5. Well it is up to us whether we use it as a wake up call or not. Also I too am seriously contemplating a whole body checkup soon, I am 35 but my mom and maternal grandmom both left for heavenly abode when they were 49…so I better be aware of my health. Thank you for this post Shirley.

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