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The Difference Between Genetics & Epigenetics

Have you ever taken a genetic test to see if you’re predisposed to certain diseases? What about your epigenetics? Unlike genetics that stay the same, your epigenetics change based on your lifestyle and environment.[1] This means you have the power to change them! Read on to learn more.


Learn how we’re using the science of epigenetics to unlock the secrets to lifelong health and reverse the aging process.

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Learn More About Genetics & Epigenetics

Find out how we are using the science of epigenetics to reward your healthy lifestyle and help you live the longest, healthiest life you can.

[1] https://www.iii.org/publications/insurance-handbook/brief-history

Double helix DNA strand

Life insurance in America has been around since the 1760s[1], and while the general idea has stayed the same, a lot more has changed since then—particularly in the world of life insurance powered by science.

Life insurance powered by what? Don’t worry, we’ll give you the run-down of how it works! Before we dive into the molecular biology of it all, let’s cover some basics…


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Different Types of Life Insurance, Explained:

As you’re researching life insurance, you’ll probably run into these two most common types: temporary (term) life insurance, or permanent life insurance. While both offer financial protection for loved ones if you were to pass, it’s important to know a few key distinctions. For a more in-depth analysis, check out this post.

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance offers protection for a set period of time, often in increments of 5, 10 and 15 years (hence the name temporary). If you die within this term, your beneficiaries will receive a death benefit (aka money) as outlined in your coverage amount. This is a common choice for young families because it’s often very simple to understand and costs much less than whole life insurance. It also enables families to protect their loved ones at life stages when they’re most vulnerable to a loss of income, like when kids are young.

In summary, Term Life insurance offers:

  • Coverage for a set period of time
  • Lower premiums
  • Loved ones do not receive money if you die outside of your term
  • Premiums may increase each time you renew coverage
  • Typically requires a medical exam, including blood and urine samples
  • Premium price is calculated based on results from a medical exam, age, and other underwriting factors

Permanent Life Insurance

Whole Life is the most common and simplest type of permanent life insurance. (Others types include Universal, Variable and Variable Universal.) Whole Life insurance covers you for your entire lifetime and is designed to not only provide lifelong coverage and a death benefit, but also includes a tax-deferred investment component known as the policy’s cash value. Cash value can be accessed like a loan (with interest), but if you don’t repay policy loans you’ll reduce your death benefit. You can also completely surrender your policy for the cash, but then you’ll no longer have coverage.

In summary, Whole (Permanent) Life Insurance offers:

  • Premiums are a fixed price, so they won’t increase or decrease over your lifetime
  • Higher premiums than Term, but offers cash value
  • Cash value can be borrowed against your account for things like a mortgage, but it must be repaid, otherwise your death benefit will be reduced
  • The death benefit is guaranteed
  • Typically requires a medical exam, including blood sample
  • Premium price is calculated based on results from a medical exam, age, and other underwriting factors

Life Insurance Powered by Science

This isn’t necessarily a different category of life insurance, however, it is a new approach to life insurance. YouSurance, for example, offers Life Insurance that is powered by science, which means we use epigenetics to give you a customized rate and personalized policy based on your molecular health. This also means you’ll be rewarded for your healthy lifestyle behaviors with rates that are unique to you.

How Does Epigenetics Work?

Epi-gen-what? It’s okay, we get that a lot! Epigenetics is a field of science that in a nutshell, looks at how genes are modified by biological and environmental conditions or “markers.” Essentially, these “markers” tell proteins in a cell to process parts of the DNA in certain ways; thus, impacting how the cells behave and carry out various life functions.

Still a little confused? Let’s back it up for a quick refresher in biochemistry and genetics so we can understand how these all work together (there won’t be a pop-quiz, we promise).

  • Cells are the fundamental working units of every human being. All the instructions required to direct their activities are contained within the chemical deoxyribonucleic acid, also known as DNA.[2] Every cell in the body with a nucleus contains a complete set of genes, which in turn, contains DNA.
  • DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Like an instruction manual, it tells the cells how to make proteins.
  • Proteins are large, complex molecules that play many critical roles in the body. They do most of the work in cells and are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs.[3]
  • Genetics is the study of heredity. It deals with how you inherit physical and behavioral characteristics, including medical conditions. These things being passed down through the genes (hence, genetics) in your DNA.
  • Epigenetics is the study of gene expression modified by biological and environmental conditions. Epigenetics can cause segments of your DNA to turn off or on, resulting in changes to the way cells “read” genes.

Putting it All Together

Okay, so our cells all have the same DNA. Check. But we have many different types of cells in our bodies, from skin cells to red blood cells to nerve cells. If they all have the same DNA, how are they different? The answer is epigenetics, which tells the cell to “turn on” or “turn off” certain proteins that transform it into the various cells of our bodies.

Epigenetics control genes, and can be achieved through a) nature, as a fetus develops into a baby and/or b) nurture: environmental stimuli that cause genes to be turned off or on. What you eat, where you live, who you interact with, when you sleep, how you exercise, even aging – all of these can eventually cause chemical modifications around the genes that will turn those genes on or off over time.[4]

Think of it this way, your genetics are like a movie script and your epigenetics are the director. Each actor (cell) is reading from the same script, but the director (epigenetics) tells the actor how to, (or not to) act it out.

Epigenetics vs. Genetics

Unlike genetics, which remain fixed throughout your lifetime, the epigenome can change based on a person’s environmental and lifestyle factors such as air pollution, sun exposure, sleep, diet, exercise, emotional trauma, and tobacco use.

Since epigenetic effects occur not just in the womb, but over the full course of a human life span, it’s important to understand which lifestyle choices can improve your epigenetics, and possibly, your health and longevity.

For example, studies have shown that getting more exercise can actually impact your epigenetics to improve cognitive health at the cellular level and even be passed down to your kids.[5]

How Does This Tie Back to Life Insurance?

Great question! At YouSurance, we believe that the secret to lifelong health is our science. Since your life is the most important thing in the world, we are using science to offer customized life insurance policies that empower you to live the longest, healthiest life you can. We think it’s the smartest way to protect you, along with the people and things you love the most. YouSurance is currently in BETA, but you can join the waiting list to be notified when we officially launch.

[1] https://www.iii.org/publications/insurance-handbook/brief-history

[2] https://www.whatisepigenetics.com/what-is-epigenetics/

[3] https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/howgeneswork/protein

[4] https://www.whatisepigenetics.com/what-is-epigenetics/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5705447/