I got my 23andMe results back today, and found myself thinking about heart disease, diet, and my Dad.
My test results put me at what appears to be a statistically significant increased risk for CVD. I'm just starting to explore the results and the whole genetic knowledge base, so I'm not sure yet how common these markers are, or just how concerned I should be.
What I do know is that my Dad had a triple bypass at the age of 68, with >90% blockage in each artery.
But here's the thing: Thinking back as far as I can remember, he essentially ate paleo.
My mom didn't bake. There was very little bread or pastry or pasta around. He didn't eat cereal. I remember lots of eggs. I remember red meat and fish and salads. There were no boxes of food. There was no Crisco or bottles of oil -- there was butter. Generally active, no real overweight, no blood sugar issues, no diabetes. The irony is that now at the urging of his cardiologist and nutritionist, he's eating closer to SAD then ever. I can't convince him to do otherwise, and I'm not surprised -- he sees what I'm recommending as what almost got him to a heart attack. And of course I could be misremembering some aspects of his diet, so I plan to give him a call this weekend.
So the question is: How did your parents eat? If your parents ate in relative accordance with paleo guidelines and dietary hypotheses, does/did their current health/health in later years bear the hypotheses out?
The genetics vs lifestyles of family members I've always found interesting, if I little frightening because my pool isn't that great. I grew up eating lots of meat and fresh vegetables, but with plenty of white rice. We were outside CONSTANTLY, always playing in the dirt, making shoes out of skunk cabbage, chasing chickens, throwing mud around, chopping logs, and generally running everywhere. My mom was super-pro-breasting feeding, so breast fed us all into toddlerhood. My mom grew up well below the poverty line and essentially homeless in a rural area, and lived off a lot of wild food her mom collected/hunted and bags of rice. My dad grew up on a farm as one of three boys in a British immigrant family, they ate a lot of potatoes, chicken, vegetables (HUGE garden), and lamb (they mostly raised sheep for lamb meat on their farm). Both of my parents were outdoors all the time and were generally rural-living semi-hippies who surfed, hiked, and skied their way through youth. So, pretty robust, health family on the outside, always a tan on our faces and muscles from all those family hikes (seriously- some families go for walks, we would go straight up mountain faces and my mom used to always have my little brother strapped to her back in addition, I remember as a 4 year old realizing it was a little wild).
Result: soooo much. My brothers and I all have allergies. Bad allergies- my little brother had many food allergies when he was little that he mostly grew out of. All of us had ridiculous hay fever that induced asthma in me and eczema in my two brothers. We all received an asperger's diagnoses at some point, though it was pretty much "dropped" for my one brother and I, while my little brother is still considered to have aspergers, and displays many of the typical behaviors you would associate with an autism spectrum disorder. My older brother and I suffered depression starting at a very young age. I have a heart disorder I have already had operated on twice before my 20th birthday. My sinuses basically didn't develop in utero, so they are these weird little pouches that I periodically have to get an operation on otherwise I get wild head aches. My mom had PCOS and possibly some other undiagnosed issue that resulted in one of her ovaries basically blowing when a cyst burst, and she almost bled to death before an emergency hysterectomy. My dad is missing a heart valve, so he's getting a pig valve put in next year. When giving birth to us my mom, and none of her six sisters, didn't dilate at all, leading the OB/GYN to believe there must be a genetic nerve defect of some sort in play, so all first borns from my mothers family were emergency you-going-to-die C-sections. My grandfather, great grandmother, great grandfather, and great aunt all died of cancer- for the females it was breast cancer.
Positive sides: we all have great skin (no acne to speak of, except the occasional zit), we are naturally muscular (the stocky type, both sides of my family), great teeth (no cavities!), no one that we know of on either side has had a heart attack (despite the heart valve defect, and my nerve defect), and no diabetes. That being said, we don't know my mother's father (arrested and institutionalized when she was young, so clearly not in touch) and his history.
It is interesting to look at your own family, and I just have to wonder how it will all work out. I don't know if any of our ailments could have been fixed or alleviated with a different diet- who knows how much was genetic! How will it all play out? My grandparents lived long lives, and had few issues- but what about my future children? Will they be plagued with allergies and eczema no matter what? Who's to say?
For the CVD on 23andme, my risks are all over the place. Higher on one, lower on another, etc.. Same for my father, who is also on 23andme. No one in my immediate family that I know of has had heart disease, excepting my father's mother, who has a congenital heart defect that she has had since childhood and doesn't have to do with diet. The healthiest person in my family is my mother's mother, who is 93 and on no medication and lives independently. She grew up on a WAPF-style diet. There is also no diabetes in my immediate family. My parents both eat paleo-ish now.
Do you know your APOE type? Are you a Hemochromatosis carrier?
My father was way ahead of his time diet wise yet past away at age 61 from a heart atack. His father also died at age 60. My dad was not Paleo but ate very low sugar. In fact my first soda pop was at age 10... We almost lived at health food stores and drove miles to get raw milk in glass bottles.