How epigenetics and stress impact human performance

Published: October 28, 2019 2:01:37 PM

As simple as this issue may seem at the beginning, but if not addressed or given due attention to in time, these the continuing stress can be fatal for health.

Human performance, stress, genetics, epigenetics, dr aman iqbal, depression, blood pressure, heart rate, eating habits, sleep patterns, blood sugar levels, fat metabolismThrough close study of the epigenetic changes in the gene activity can help people manage their stress levels and choose a healthy lifestyle.

By Dr. Aman Iqbal

Daily life comes with its own set of challenges and adulting is hard. Stress is a normal response to dealing with changes and situations that come up in daily life. In the short term, stress can help you perform better under pressure, but constant stress can pose problems for your health. Stress causes the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, as well as adrenaline, which influences your blood pressure, heart rate, eating habits, sleep patterns, blood sugar levels, fat metabolism and your ability to fight-off illness. Long term stress can also increase your risk of heart attack or stroke and contribute to depression.

The environmental factors leading up to stress can be best explained by an example that you and I can relate to. Example of Sonya, a healthy 20 something woman who just entered, what many call, the big bad corporate world. Till now Sonya has had an easy life, where she ate home cooked food made by her loving mother, went for walks with her dad and had her finances well taken care of as she lived with her parents.

Sonya has a creative mind and she writes very well. Back at home and in family everyone appreciates Sonya for how clear her mind is and how well she put her thoughts on paper. As Sonya gets the job offer, she moves to a shared apartment, starts to order in food, and spends long hours at work. She continues to go for walks but now her life has changed with a lot of environmental changes at once. After a year of work, she notices that her periods are delayed, she feels fatigued, she is developing rashes all over her skin and has developed a wandering mind that cannot focus on one thing anymore.

Another 6 months in her work and the clarity in her writing goes away. She finds it hard to pump out good content that her agency needs and often finds herself resorting to supplements to aid her busy and suboptimal life, but fails. We all know someone like Sonya. What Sonya is going through in her life is stress. But what we do not know is that whatever is happening to Sonya can be explained through a relatively new field in science – Epigenetics. Epigenetics is a field of science that studies the dynamic changes to the human genome as we live and age.

It studies the effect of the environment on our health. Now consider this, in her old and beautiful life, Sonya’s Epigenetic signature (DNA modification pattern) was ideal suggesting homeostasis – Homeo(resembling) Stasis (Equilibrium)- She had love from her parents who were there to take care of all her needs and the environment around her was favourable.

Then what caused the fluctuation in her epigenetic signature?

Lifestyle changes, poor choices, untimely sleeping pattern, and work stress led Sonya into a series of bouts of stressors. Upon tracking her Epigenetic signature after 18 months into her new life it shows signs of abnormal inflammation, stress, anxiety and depression. The inflammation has wrecked her body for her ovarian cells to lose their rhythm knocking of the periodic menstrual cycle and too much toxins in her body have resulted in the epidermal cells (skin) develop rashes.

As simple as this issue may seem at the beginning, but if not addressed or given due attention to in time, these the continuing stress can be fatal for Sonya’s health. Through close study of the epigenetic changes in the gene activity can help people like Sonya manage their stress levels and choose a healthy lifestyle. Science has a new and better face, and now is the time to bring it to the use of the larger benefit.

(The author is a Scientist, Mentor and Futurist. Views expressed are personal.)

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