Can You Beat Your Genetic Risks with Lifestyle?

By Michelle Darian, MS, MPH, RD, April 9, 2024
Genetic risks with lifestyle feature image

Your DNA, passed down from your ancestors, is fixed at birth. And while you can’t change your DNA, you can control how your genetic predispositions show up in your health. In fact, how your genes express themselves throughout your life is heavily influenced by your lifestyle habits. Positive lifestyle choices can help mitigate these risks and support optimal health and longevity. The food you eat, how you move your body, your ability to manage stress, your social connections, and more can all influence your healthspan. And by combining insights from DNA with blood biomarkers that are responsive to lifestyle habits, it’s possible to understand your health state holistically.

“Genetics loads the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger,” Dr. Judith Stern, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition and Internal Medicine at the University of California, Davis, once said. [1] While uncovering your genetic predispositions can be daunting, knowing that your lifestyle can help you to beat your genetic odds provides hope. 

So, can you beat your genetic risks with lifestyle habits? Read on to unpack the complex relationship between genetics, environment, and overall healthspan, and learn how to put results from a DNA test—including ten new InsideTracker DNA scores relevant to your healthspan goals—to work.

Blood DNA Fitness tracking ebook

To what extent do genetics and lifestyle impact healthspan?

It’s clear that both genetics and lifestyle contribute to overall health, but what does this breakdown truly look like? Are genetics more heavily responsible compared to lifestyle? Is it an 80/20 breakdown, or perhaps the reverse? InsideTracker’s Principal Scientist, Dr. Bartek Nogal, PhD, weighs in. 


“For many health traits, such as ApoB levels or hand grip strength, the interaction between genetics and lifestyle is multifaceted. The heritability of these and other traits usually ranges from around 40% to 70%, indicating that a substantial portion of the variation in these traits is influenced by genetic factors. However, lifestyle choices, like exercise and diet, can modify how these genetic factors express themselves.”

Your DNA describes your genetic predispositions

How can you best understand the ways these genetic predispositions are currently affecting your health? 

There are many ways to quantify your current health status, for example, blood biomarker testing, data from wearable devices like Apple Watch, Garmin, and Oura Ring, and importantly, how you’re currently feeling. Dr. Nogal argues that both your DNA data and your current health status are critical components of managing your healthspan. 


“By merging genetic insights with continuously updated health markers, you gain an integrated view of your health, enabling tailored lifestyle strategies and early detection of potential issues,” says Bartek Nogal, PhD, Principal Scientist at InsideTracker. “This dynamic monitoring empowers you with the knowledge to optimize your healthspan, making informed decisions for a healthier and longer life.”


What can DNA tell you about your healthspan?

DNA tests can reveal your genetic predisposition for many wellness traits that impact your healthspan. InsideTracker’s DNA test analyzes up to 38 wellness traits based on up to 20,000 genetic biomarkers. “This isn't just passive genetic knowledge; it's a precise roadmap for your journey to lasting wellness,” says Dr. Nogal. 

Here is a look at the ten latest DNA scores: 


An essential indicator of heart health.

ApoB is a trait that is strongly associated with heart disease, stroke, and overall lifespan. Studies show that people with an increased genetic risk of elevated ApoB levels were more likely to develop heart disease. Knowing your genetic predisposition of having high ApoB levels can explain why lifestyle interventions alone may not be moving the needle on your ApoB and cholesterol markers.  Additionally, blood lipid biomarker levels alone may not have the same predictive ability for cardiovascular disease across individuals of different levels or genetic risks. [2]  This means that two people with equal values of the same lipid marker may be at different levels of risk. Knowing means you can have a more informed conversation with your physician regarding your care plan.


blood and dna data come together for better health insights

Epigenetic age acceleration

The risk of your body aging faster than your chronological age.

Epigenetic age acceleration (EAA) refers to the difference between an individual's estimated epigenetic age (their biological age) and their chronological age, the number of years they’ve been alive. Aging at a slower rate than your chronological age preserves your body’s functions into old age (like organ function and cellular function), helping you continue to do what you love for longer. Knowing your genetic predisposition for epigenetic age acceleration can help you understand the importance of focusing on areas of your healthspan that may be suboptimal, like heart health, metabolism, and cognition.


Your genetic potential to live a longer life.

Lifespan, the length of one’s life, is determined by several factors and complex processes that work in tandem. Environment, lifestyle, and genetics all contribute to total lifespan. A longer lifespan simply means more years of life. Genetics play an important role in your potential to live a longer life, but lifestyle habits also contribute to your healthspan (health + longevity). Knowing your genetic predisposition for lifespan can serve as motivation to make positive actions to beat your genetic odds and extend longevity.


Menopausal age

Your genetic risk for experiencing menopause at an earlier age.

Menopausal age refers to a woman’s age on the day that she has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. Reaching menopause earlier can increase a woman’s risk of several age-related diseases like cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Multiple factors contribute to menopausal age, including genetics. While you can’t change when you undergo menopause, it can be helpful to know if it may arrive earlier or later so that you can be attuned to its signs and symptoms.

Cognitive aging

Your risk of experiencing accelerated cognitive decline.

Cognitive aging, commonly referred to as “cognitive decline,” is the age-related decline in cognitive abilities like memory, executive function, language, attention and processing speed, visuospatial ability, and more. Maintaining cognition helps to retain mental sharpness as you age. Knowing your genetic predisposition for cognitive aging can encourage proactive measures to prevent cognitive decline. Implementing sustainable exercise, nutrition, and sleep habits are science-backed ways to maintain your cognitive capacity as you age. 

Visceral fat content

Your genetic risk for harmful body fat that negatively affects healthspan.

Visceral fat is a harmful form of fat in the body. Visceral fat can be visible or invisible and is stored deep inside the abdominal cavity and the surrounding organs. Visceral fat is harmful because higher amounts are associated with several health risks like poor metabolic health, a cycle of weight gain, hormone imbalances, inflammation, and several chronic diseases. Knowing your genetic predisposition can help you to prioritize healthy habits like exercise, particularly resistance training, and maintaining a caloric balance to keeping visceral fat content at a normal level.

Grip strength

Your genetic propensity for whole-body strength.

Grip strength is a convenient and reliable indicator of overall strength, bone density, risk of falls and fractures, cognition, depression, and overall quality of life. Grip strength is commonly referred to as a marker of aging—a weaker grip strength is often an early warning sign of several chronic conditions that affect aging and life expectancy. A dynamometer can be used to measure actual grip strength at home. Genetic studies show that grip strength is highly heritable yet can also be improved through exercise. Knowing your genetic predisposition for grip strength can reveal the importance of resistance training to prevent muscle mass loss that can accompany aging when left unaddressed. 

Grip Strength

Bone mineral density

A genetic indicator of potential bone strength. 

Bone mineral density (BMD) measures the mineral content of bones. A higher bone mineral density is indicative of bone strength. Osteoporosis results from low bone mineral density and increases the risk of falls and fractures, known to significantly impact one’s quality of life and lifespan. Knowing your genetic predisposition for bone mineral density can inspire you to take action against age-related bone loss and prioritize actions like consuming calcium, vitamin D, and protein and participating in resistance training. 


Your likelihood of being a “morning person” or an “evening person.”

“Morningness” refers to those who wake up early and are most alert and active in the morning compared to the evening. Morningness and eveningness are commonly known as one’s “chronotype,” which is impacted by circadian rhythms and sleep-related behaviors. Potential for morningness is influenced by many factors like lifestyle, work schedules, preferences, and even genetics. Morningness is associated with better behavioral patterns and an improved metabolism—both of which can benefit healthspan. Knowing your genetic predisposition for being a morning person vs. an evening person can help to explain how you’re feeling physically throughout the day. 

Age-related muscle weakness

Your genetic tendency for loss of muscle strength in old age. 

Muscle mass and strength naturally decline throughout the lifespan. Weaker muscles are less able to support activities of daily living, physical activity, and balance, making muscle weakness a strong predictor of poor health outcomes and aging. Muscle weakness results from lifestyle factors, nutrition, and exercise, but genetics do play a role. Knowing your genetic predisposition for age-related muscle weakness can further motivate you to participate in resistance training to prevent muscle strength loss that can accompany aging when left unaddressed.

Who should undergo DNA testing?

DNA testing is beneficial for anyone who is curious about their health and wants to make informed choices to enhance their well-being. “If you're interested in understanding your genetic predispositions to traits relevant to healthspan, DNA testing can provide valuable and actionable insights. Whether you're looking to optimize your healthspan or personalize your approach to wellness, DNA testing can offer tailored recommendations based on your unique genetic makeup,” says Dr. Nogal.

How to measure your DNA

Services like InsideTracker can measure your DNA. The process is simple. A DNA kit will arrive in the mail. All you have to do is follow the simple instructions including a quick cheek swab. Drop it in the mail and receive your DNA analysis in your InsideTracker account a few weeks later.

Security measures around DNA data

Privacy is InsideTracker’s priority. InsideTracker is fully HIPAA compliant and SOC 2 certified. The company has implemented best-in-class practices to ensure customers' blood, DNA, physio, and profile data are thoroughly encrypted, obfuscated, anonymized, and de-identified. 

InsideTracker is continuously improving security measures to meet the highest industry standards, including cutting-edge cyber security protection and extensive layers of firewalls to ensure safety.


Create a wellness plan from DNA, blood, and wearable data

Your DNA analysis and your DNA Report can help you to create a data-driven wellness plan that's right for you. Here is an example of how DNA data, combined with blood biomarker and wearable data come together to form a data-driven wellness plan. 

Blood DNA and wearable data for health insights

Personalized action plan for wellnesspersonalized action plan for optimal health

How to make data-driven health decisions

Knowing your genetic predispositions is useful—but it’s what you do with the data that really matters. And according to Dr. Nogal, “Using your DNA data to shape health decisions is a game-changer for a healthier, longer life.”

“Your genetic insights provide personalized guidance: fine-tune your lifestyle based on your genetic profile, target potential risks proactively, optimize your nutrition and fitness with tailored strategies, choose supplements that align with your genetic processing, prepare for aging trends, and manage stress more effectively.”




More on genetics for healthspan

New call-to-action