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Discussion of Epigenetics Meanings and Aspects

Introduction

Epigenetics is the study of how gene expression takes place without changing the sequence of DNA. The epigenetics video is mind-opening about how our behavior can influence our health. The video sheds light on the possible differences in people with similar genetic makeup due to epigenetics. It helps individuals understand how their lifestyles affect their health and that of their generations. It shows how much people can utilize the environment to improve or worsen their health. Additionally, it indicates how treatment interventions can be changed now that there is additional knowledge about genetics and disease development.

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The research article “Paternal Tobacco Smoke Correlated to Offspring Asthma and Prenatal Epigenetic Programming” by Chih-Chiang et al. (2019) seeks to address epigenetics in relation to asthma. The paper’s focus is to investigate the connection between tobacco smoking by male parents and the development of asthma in their child and its association with methylation of immune genes related to tobacco. The study’s rationale is based on the lack of sufficient knowledge about the impact of paternal tobacco smoking on their child’s asthma and its epigenetic programming before birth. The article reports that it is already established that maternal tobacco smoking is linked to the development of asthma in the offspring through epigenetic programming. However, paternal factors are not widely researched, which creates a gap in evidence-based research.

The researchers assert that asthma is a condition worth investigating because of its increased prevalence in the world. Despite research demonstrating that it is a condition influenced by genetics, the high prevalence rate indicates the influence of other factors. The article describes asthma as a disease that is modifiable through environmental factors, especially in the early years. During prenatal stages, exposure o harsh environmental factors such as poor nutrition are correlated to poor outcomes such as low birth weight. Similarly, the risk of childhood asthma is connected to exposure to air pollutions such as maternal tobacco use. DNA methylation is found to be caused by several environmental factors associated with asthma development. In the conducted study, the researchers found that prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke through the father were at a higher risk of developing asthma than those who were not exposed. The study observed that prenatal paternal smoke exposure was linked with asthma from the age of 6 years.

Concept of epigenesis

The concept of epigenesis is not very new in the field of genetics; however, its current use is employed to denote the impact of the environment on the modification of genetic programming. Epigenesis demonstrates that gene expression undergoes modifiable changes that do not alter the sequence of DNA nucleotides (Lind and Spagopoulou, F2018). Particularly, the impact of the environment on gene modification is emphasized in epigenesis. The genetic makeup of an individual may therefore not impact the development of a condition when external factors act on genetic programming. As the article by Chih-Chiang et al. (2019) explains, prenatal environmental factors can affect development after birth. The impact of maternal tobacco smoking on asthma development is established by literature. However, tobacco smoke is an environmental factor, meaning that the impact on asthma-related genes is not due to genetic inheritance.

Based on my family history, asthma is the most prevalent health condition. It is expected that the condition is genetically inherited from one generation to the other. However, with the evidence tabled by epigenesis about the impact of environmental factors on gene modification, it is also likely that environmental factors have played a role in its prevalence. Lifestyle factors may have led to an increased rate of asthma in the family history. Exploring environmental factors that trigger the development of asthma in the family can shed light on the exact cause of the high disease rate. Although genetics cannot be ruled out, it is expected that environmental factors have exacerbated the prevalence rate.

Questionnaire findings

The questionnaire findings indicated a life expectancy of 83 years. However, the results show that life expectancy can be improved through a lot of changes in personal, lifestyle, nutrition and medical factors. Important factors that are found to improve life expectancy significantly include stress management and working ours. The ability to effectively manage stress is found to increase life expectancy. Working for long hours is also detrimental to longevity, and for a longer lifespan, it is recommended that one works for not more than 40 hours a week. Social life, which may not seem relevant to longevity, is also crucial. Living close to caring family members and friends can add up to one year of life.

Lifestyle factors are supposed to be modified in accordance with family history. To reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke, taking aspirin before bed is recommended. However, this should be done after consulting the doctor. Other lifestyle factors include using a seat belt always when traveling in a car to reduce the impact of an accident if it happens. Regarding nutrition, the findings recommend maintaining a healthy weight and taking calcium supplements to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. The results also suggest going for relevant medical tests and screening. Particularly cancer screening and diabetes testing is recommended. Also, blood pressure needs to be checked because of the risk of heart disease.

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The findings on the questionnaire indicate that health outcomes and quality of life are significantly influenced by lifestyle, social, environmental and medical factors. Preventing disease and illness requires someone to address all these life areas to achieve long life.

How to improve health and longevity

Based on questionnaire findings, one of the strategies for improving health includes having close family members act as a social support system, especially when undergoing stressful situations. I can also improve health and longevity by using a sunscreen every time I am outside in the sun. Sunscreen reduces the risk of skin cancer by preventing harmful ultra-violet rays from reaching and damaging the skin. Weight is another important factor in health management. Being overweight is a risk factor for developing diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory problems (Fruh, 2017). Therefore, I will ensure that I maintain a healthy weight through proper nutrition. For healthy life in old age, I will start taking calcium supplements to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, which increases with age.

Conclusion

The interplay of numerous factors determines health. It is important to understand how each life factor influences the other to create a health outcome. Genetics play a huge role in influencing diseases, especially genetically inherited diseases. However, new developments indicate that environmental factors may affect gene expression leading to a change in phenotype. Although the change is reversible, the modification can be transferred to the next generation. Epigenetics demonstrates this concept by showing how organisms with similar DNA can develop varied conditions due to gene methylation.

References

Fruh, S. M. (2017). Obesity: Risk factors, complications, and strategies for sustainable long‐term weight management. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 29(S1), S3-S14.

Lind, M.I., & Spagopoulou, F. (2018). Evolutionary consequences of epigenetic inheritance. Heredity 121, 205–209.

Wu, C. C., Hsu, T. Y., Chang, J. C., Ou, C. Y., Kuo, H. C., Liu, C. A.,… & Yang, K. D. (2019). Paternal tobacco smoke correlated to offspring asthma and prenatal epigenetic programming. Frontiers in genetics, 10, 471.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Discussion of Epigenetics Meanings and Aspects'. 14 October.

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