The Whole View, Episode 499: Genetics, Epigenetics, & Social Determinants of Health

Welcome to episode 499 of The Whole View! This week, Stacy and Dr. Sarah break down the science behind the determinants of health to find what components contribute to it and what we can do to improve health and wellness for all. 

If you enjoy the show, please review it on iTunes!

Key Takeaways

  • Next week is Dr. Sarah’s last week on the podcast! If you missed last week’s announcement, we discussed it there. In next week’s show, we’ll talk more about what’s next for Dr. Sarah, Stacy, and the podcast. Yes, The Whole View is continuing and will still be awesome. Yes, Dr. Sarah will be back as a guest co-host from time to time!
  • Human geneticists have studied how variations in genes contribute to variations in disease risk for more than 100 years. A single gene mutation causes some diseases. But, genetic disorders are rare. Diseases not caused by a specific gene mutation, a collection of gene variants increase your risk.
  • “Runs in the family” might not be from genetics, but rather from common exposures (e.g., pesticides, contaminated drinking water) due to the shared environment, learned behaviors (lifestyle, diet, smoking, drinking), social determinants of health, and epigenetics might contribute to this phenomenon! Research continues to untangle the genetic contribution.
  • Epigenetics identifies genes whose variations are associated with a disease is just the first step in linking genetics and health. Understanding the mechanisms by which the gene is expressed and how it is influenced by other genes, proteins, and the environment is becoming increasingly important.
  • Social determinants of health (SDOH) are environmental conditions that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. While biological and health behavior accounts for roughly 25% of a population’s health, the other 75% is determined by social determinants. 
  • Economic stability, education access and quality, health care access and quality, neighborhood and built environment, and social and community context all play into social determinants of health. 
  • Racism (not race) is a primary driver of social determinants and the inequities in housing, income, and education, especially among communities of color. In many ways, it’s not just one of the social determinants — it’s an underlying structural determinant setting the stage for all other social determinants. 
  • We encourage our listeners to learn more about social determinants of health, including the links to structural racism. 
  • And, of course, our day-to-day choices are important too! Briefly – these are important because they impact nutritional status, hormone regulation, metabolic health, gut microbiome health, and immune health.
  • Pulling it all together, make sure you focus on what’s in your power to control, advocate for yourself and others, and think of generational change you can implement in your everyday life!

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