Do your genes increase your risk for a disease? Taking the steps to find out and then getting the report of where you stand can be quite scary.

Are your genes your fate? Are they the road map of your destiny?  

Well your genes aren’t a life sentence and in today’s show we discuss the relationship of your genes and your health.

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What if I told you that you can still change the course of your health?

That you can fight against and lower your risk for…

Neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia.

Or that a gene could be one of the reasons you’re finding it hard to lose weight.

Are your genes truly your destiny?

Well, I believe that you can still rewrite your ‘health’ destiny and weave something more beautiful.

Something that doesn’t restrict or limit the quality of your life.

Something that lets you scream out at the top of your lungs…

Yes, I can fight this! 

I am and I do this through the day to day choices I make!

Because that is what we all need to become all that you can be.

To become empowered health warriors.

You see, my genes are like my dancing partner, I just need to know what moves them well. 

Armed with the knowledge about our risk factors and motivated to make the necessary changes.

Lifestyle changes are powerful because our health isn’t completely based on our genes.

A personalised lifestyle plan and genes can both affect your lifespan.

A proper diet and nutrition.

Exercise, movement, and physical activity.

Getting enough sleep.

All of these including a whole host of other factors have an impact.

Genes are still important.

They play an important role in our lives, and we’re still learning more about them fully.

Despite what we already know, there are still common misconceptions about genes.

For those of you who have done genetic testing, what were your results like?

Does seeing those red, green, and yellow results give you a better understanding?

Or maybe, it only increased your frustration and confusion.

It might be that you became more anxious about your health.

Far from being the empowered individual, you end up being more stressed.

Stressed about what your future would be.

Some people are even more susceptible to getting more stressed than they already are.

Oh, what to do now?

Build the right team that supports and guides you.

Look for a functional medicine practitioner.

Or someone that has training and knowledge in this space.

There have been more and more practitioners like myself who’ve been interested and working towards improving their knowledge.

So they can help people like you.

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Now’s not the time to take a backseat. 

We’re talking about your health here.

And you are the driver.

Not your genes, but YOU.

So strap on your seat belt and shift the gears. 

Don’t worry though because I’m here to guide you.


Check out this new episode as we go over:

  • The common misunderstandings surrounding genes and epigenetics
  • How nutrition and environment have an impact on your genes
  • Dr. Denise’ own risk and the applications for people in a similar situation
  • What to be mindful of when getting a genetic test
  • The common gene variations associated with neurodegenerative conditions

Episode Highlights


About Our Guest

About Our Guest

Dr. Denise Furness is a molecular geneticist and nutritionist. She spent 20 years studying the relationship between our genes and our environment, and has focused on nutrient genomics or the relationship between what we eat and how to fix our genes. 

You can connect with Dr. Denise through her website, Your Genes and Nutrition or reach out to her on her Facebook.

Genes, Lifestyle Choices, And Your Health

Finding The Genes Affecting Health

  • The difference between a clinical geneticist and a molecular geneticist is that a clinical geneticist works in diagnosing rare genetic disorders linked with disease.
  • Dr. Denise is an academic and scientist which involves having an understanding of viruses.
  • Her work eventually led into animal work, but she shifted to nutrigenomics and got her PhD and postdoctoral fellowship on that. 
  • She worked on research for almost 10 years before moving into private practice.
  • She now works in helping children with autism, people with chronic fatigue, and those facing cognitive decline by identifying the underlying issues affecting their health.

Common Misconceptions On Genetics And Your Health

  • Your genetic makeup plays a large role in your predisposition to health and disease.
  • Our genes are the instructions to make the proteins, but they need to be turned on. 
  • Nutrients and amino acids are needed to be able to make proteins. 
  • Exposures to chemicals and toxins also heavily influenced gene expression.
  • You need to be in balance by having a better relationship with your genetic makeup and making sure it’s nourished with the right amount of food, activity, and sleep.

How Genetic Variations Impact Your Health

  • MTHFR is not a diagnosis for any disease.
  • Genetic variations could have a small or large impact on how well a gene functions.
  • In the case of MTHFR, it makes an enzyme that functions a little slower.
  • By adding a bit more folate and B2, you won’t have a huge demand on methylation.
  • The slight variations can be modified through diet and lifestyle. This is where personalisation comes in.
  • What you need to look at is the relationship between something in your body at a cellular level and how it plays out when you don’t get the right nutrients.
  • There is an association of different factors that increases your risk to experience a disease.
  • Being able to manage the stressors in your life becomes important to managing those factors.
  • It’s about looking at a number of genes in the pathway and the nutrients that affect that pathway.

Understanding Your Genetic Risk Factors

  • Professor Rodrigo Quinn believes that we need to close the gap between understanding our relationship with our body and mind, the dynamic connectome.
  • While many practitioners don’t recommend genetic testing, it will actually be helpful.
  • As long as you can feel empowered by getting this information, then get tested.
  • Dr. Denise’s mother passed away from Dementia. She herself has APOE 34. APOE is implicated in the risk for cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Dementia.
  • There are no medications to compensate, but evidence shows lifestyle intervention can improve quality of life.
  • APOE is a lipid or fat transporter.
  • Most or about 60% of the population (Europeans and Caucasians) are APOE 33. This means they have an average risk for Alzheimer’s Disease or about 5%.
  • Those with APOE 34 have up to a 20% risk. For those with APOE 44, their risk jumps up to 70%.
  • Knowing your risk factors means you can start to do things earlier.
  • APOE 44 is strongly associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, but it is not a cause. Nigerians have the highest frequencies for APOE 44, but they have the lowest onset for Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • The main difference between Nigerians and other African populations with high incidences of Alzheimer’s Disease is lifestyle.
  • Nigerians have low cholesterol, are active, and eat a high fiber diet.
  • With lifestyle changes, even if you are APOE 44, you can bring your risk down to normal.
  • By stacking things in our favor, through movement, diet, proper sleep, we can reduce our risk of expression.
  • Dementia is not an older person’s disease. It starts as early as our 30s and 40s.
  • APOE is linked to inflammation too. 
  • A lot of genetic variations are sorted as either good or bad. But these genetic variations may also have benefits. For example, those with slower MTHFR have less DNA damage and can reduce the risk of cancer linked with DNA damage.
  • With the amount of research being done, we should watch this space as we learn more.
  • In the meantime, genetic testing is worth looking at.
  • Some things to consider including eating a high fiber, low glycemic diet, eating healthy fats, and checking whether you have a disrupted circadian rhythm.
  • Your circadian rhythm is responsible for turning on and off genes at certain times.
  • Those with APOE gene are shown to be better responders to exercise.
  • Another gene to look at when it comes to cognitive decline is brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
  • BDNF is the gene important for regenerating neurons that we lose over our lifetime.
  • Exercise has been shown to light up the brain and increase BDNF.
  • You should also monitor your stress levels because BDNF suppresses the expression of BDNF.

Genes Impact On Stress Levels

  • Some of us would have a more stressful response to difficult situations because of the way we’re wired.
  • People with genetic variations in Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT) and have a slow COMT will be lacking in magnesium and B vitamins.
  • COMT is responsible for breaking down dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.
  • People with a slow COMT experience a heightened stress response.
  • The positive side is that someone with COMT has a really good capacity for executive function and thinking. 
  • By understanding your genetic predispositions, you can be a bit more logical and do little things that can help you like taking magnesium.
  • Coming up with the ingredients and the tools in your personal toolbox can help you navigate the changes in your life.

Genes Role With Weight Gain

  • Some people have a genetic predisposition towards weight gain.
  • The FTO gene is one of the strongest predictors of weight.
  • FTO is responsible for your ability to utilise fat as energy.
  • There’s no easy answer to being able to lose weight, but that shouldn’t mean that you give up.
  • There is no one diet for everyone. Maybe you’re more sensitive to sugar or you’re more sensitive to fat. The diet that would work for you would depend on some things.
  • Don’t get stuck on numbers and how many kilos you’ve lost. Look at body composition and health.

Other Factors To Consider About Your Genes

  • Past traumas such as being bullied or exposure to toxins could also be factors affecting your health.
  • Dr. Denise has a functional medicine approach where she looks at a whole host of things including sleep, and gut microbiome.  
  • When it comes to genetic testing, it’s best to work with a practitioner who has done some training, look for a functional medicine doctor, or find someone who specialises in nutrigenomics or genetics.
  • Be cautious about things like Ancestry and 23andMe. They have a wealth of data, but not the ones you want.
  • Understanding your genetic makeup and what that means is very complex. 
  • Having somebody work with you through that is better than doing the guesswork yourself.
  • More and more practitioners are becoming interested in the integrative medicine space or functional medicine space.
We need to start to close the gap between understanding our relationship with our body and mind, the dynamic connectome. Click To Tweet


Previously Recommended Resources


  • A favorable lifestyle was associated with a lower dementia risk even among participants with a high genetic risk. So despite the “gun” being loaded so to speak with lifestyle modifications you can reduce your personal risk. Association of Lifestyle and Genetic Risk With Incidence of Dementia:


  • Memory Wise – Dr Anne Unkenstein plus blurb 


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The Biggest Takeaway About How Genes Affect Your Health

Understanding your genetic makeup and what it means is a complex pitch. There are many different dance partners around a gene that are going to enable expression of that in many different ways.

Quotable “We can start to stack things in our favor and reduce our risk of expression by starting to make simple lifestyle choices.” – David Norris

What was your BIGGEST takeaway from this episode? 


All the best 


P.S. Did you get the free guide?  If not, here’s the link

Disclaimer: Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have heard on the podcast or on my website.