Nursing Reaction Paper
Epigenetics is an extremely new field of study with the last few years being characterized by increased academic research in the area. By definition, epigenetics simply refers to the study of how human beings and other living organisms change in accordance with the changes in environmental factors. The environmental factors of interest, in this case, are those factors that lead to changes in how genes express themselves but not to changes in gene sequencing. The process of gene expression involves a process called gene methylation. This process recognizes that in the body of a human being not all genes are activated, and if not all genes are activated then it means that not all genes express themselves; their effects on the body are seen when the process of gene methylation occurs. Therefore, the concept of epigenetics refers to the study of how gene methylation activates changes in human beings as well as in another organism. In light of this brief introduction to epigenetics, this paper briefly responds to the idea that the quality of life that human beings lead is dependent on the environmental factors to which they are exposed. Firstly, the respondent seeks to explain briefly, in simple terms, how environmental factors contribute to gene methylation.
Human beings go through life engaging in various activities. The activities include exercising, working, and even sleep patterns. On many occasions, the activated genetic code influences some of the happenings in a person's life by creating triggers for the person to engage in various activities. As human beings engage in these activities due to the changes in the external environment, the genes that were previously unexpressed may be activated, and their implications may be noted on the organism. For instance, living in a place in the tropics and then moving to a place along the equator, where the sun is hotter, triggers some genetic changes hence exhibiting the concept of epigenetics. Similarly, a person who has lived his or her whole life being dormant may trigger the process of epigenesis by simply engaging in exercises. It is in this backdrop that a dormant lifestyle is considered to result in various health-related problems. Similarly, this understanding of epigenesis is the one that has triggered a surge in epigenetics and related studies with the objective being to show how changes in a person's lifestyle could lead to better health. There are also studies in which the study of epigenesis helps explain some situations in life, including suicidal activities.
In one of the studies, McGowan et al. (2009) sought to explain the relationship between child abuse and changes in the child's brain. The study revealed that the early development years of a child are highly responsive to changes, especially in the brain. Consequently, being exposed to abusive activities causes changes in the brain of the child. The study revealed that a comparison between suicidal victims who had prior exposure to abuse and those who had no such prior exposure showed the existence of the epigenetic tag on the genes of those with a history of abuse. This can be explained by the fact that maternal care influences the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity through the epigenetic changes of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) gene expression. When maternal care involves violence and abuse, the genes of this child are altered. The implications include the observation that the risk of committing suicide increases significantly. In order to understand the reason why this risk increases, it is important to understand that the HPA function involves responses to stressful activities meaning that any negative changes in the GR gene expression also change the way people responds to stressful situations in their life.
The findings of the study by McGowan, et al. (2009) have implications for a lifestyle, in line with the observations presented on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Web site. Those observations state that our lifestyle and the environment do actually lead to the way genes get expressed and this returns to the human being through the expressions of changed behavior. These findings help in ensuring that parents and other guardians understand the fact that the way they bring up children affects their lives and, in addition, they can enforce good morals by improving the way in which they nurture their children. In addition, the understanding of epigenetics and how exposure to various environmental conditions influences the genetic changes in the body of a human being helps in dealing with several problems with one of them being a drug addiction (NOVA scienceNOW, Epigenetics, 2007).
The mention of drug abuse in the context of epigenetics is based on the understanding of the undoubted relationship between the human brain and epigenetics. Research indicates that prolonged abuse of drugs such as cocaine and heroin results in epigenetic changes. These changes are associated with certain sections of the brain. When one abstains from the use of drugs, they suffer from withdrawal symptoms. They also face a high risk of relapse and, additionally, science indicates that the drug at times remains coded into the DNA of the addict long after they stop using the drugs. In addition to this statement, research also indicates that the intervention measures used in the treatment of addiction target the changes in gene expression as the tool of fighting drug addiction. This understanding points to the fact that epigenetics affects virtually all facets of a human being's life and this is why there needs to be more studies in this area (Szyf, 2008).
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My family has a history with epigenetics though this did not come to my realization until I viewed the video on PBS. In the Family History-Dr. Oz.pdf I indicated that one of my relatives suffered from depression that pushed him to drug abuse. Later he struggled with drug addiction and, though he managed to quit and has abstained for more than 5 years, he at times gets tempted to get back to drug abuse. Focusing on his life's development, there are visible changes in his body and mental status which indicate that there are genetic changes involved. For instance, he was very talkative in the past but has turned to be more composed, and keeps to himself reflecting a different life from what he was before the addiction problem.
Lastly, I completed the BlueZones.com Vitality Compass Life Expectancy Questionnaire. The results from the findings indicated my true age and provided important details on how I could enhance the longevity of my life. According to the results, my life expectancy exceeds 70 years, and the healthy life part exceeds 67 years. This indicates that I live a healthy life, including the fact that I enjoy taking fruits, milk products, and even fish. These are the three key factors that would enable me to live longer.
Other than that, my life involves a big intake of salt and the results recommended that I should cut it. The second recommendation is that I should exercise more often. Thirdly, I ought to reduce the intake of sugar. Moreover, I do not have any health conditions and this means that my condition is fine. In addition to the above recommendations, the site also recommended that I should pay more attention to the social life and to the maintenance of good health.
In conclusion, this paper addressed lifestyle issues based on the understanding that epigenetics is highly related to the human lifestyle. This means that the life that we lead influences the changes that occur throughout it. I filled the Family History-Dr. Oz.pdf and completed the BlueZones.com Vitality Compass Life Expectancy Questionnaire. The results from the two platforms indicated that depression is one of the problems that have implications on my lifestyle.