In the future, can we get DNA tests as children to find out what types of diets to eat and what kinds of medicine to take? If only it was that easy. A new study suggests that, for most common diseases, genes alone only tell part of the story–and the environment tells the rest of it, because it interacts with DNA in ways that are difficult to predict. Geneticist Barak Cohen says, "Having a particular genetic variant may not have much of an effect but combined with a person’s environment, it may have a huge effect."

This means that place matters when it comes to health: In urban areas, a single zip code digit can make a big difference in life expectancy. More than 9 million people live in more than 3,000 high-poverty neighborhoods in the United States. Low-income African Americans in particular are disproportionately isolated in high-risk neighborhoods, and some parts of the city seem to be almost DESIGNED to make people sick. For example, over the years studies have established a relationship between a concentration of fast-food restaurants in poor, predominantly minority neighborhoods and health problems among the residents of those neighborhoods. These same neighborhoods may not have even a single grocery store offering fresh, nutritious food or safe places to exercise. Sociologist Kevin Fitzpatrick says, "When trying to understand a person’s health and well-being, we believe that their zip code may be just as important a number to their physical health as their blood pressure or glucose level."

As far as we can tell, lovely Nashville is a HEALTHY city, which is why we hold our annual Dreamland Festival there every June. Come meet your favorite Dreamland hosts (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show) and make new friends–we always have a great time–and interesting things happen!

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