Lately, I have been on an obsession with studying Telomeres and how they play a role in our aging.
What are Telomeres?
Telomeres are a specific sequence of DNA that forms a cap at the two ends of each chromosome. This cap – like the plastic cap on the end of a shoelace – keeps the chromosome from fraying each time it’s replicated. When a cell divides, it replicates everything inside of it, including its chromosomes – the bundles of DNA that provide the genetic blueprint for building and running your body. Without telomeres to protect them, chromosomes get increasingly tangled and damaged, resulting in poorly constructed cells and speeding up the process that leads to cell death. This, in turn, means an older, less resilient you.
Research shows that longer telomeres are associated with a longer lifespan and that shorter telomeres are associated with the diseases of aging: heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.
How do we keep our Telemores from shortening?
Lifestyle is an important determinant of telomere length and telomere function – this may explain how we age more or less than others through the choices we make every day.
Here’s how to lengthen our Telomeres:
Maintain a healthy weight
According to research, obese individuals lose 8.8 years of life due to damaged DNA due to oxidative stress.
Research has shown that exercise can reduce oxidative stress and help preserve DNA. One study found that men in their 50s who were active runners had nearly the same telomere length as men in their 20s, while men in their 50s who were sedentary had telomeres that were shorter by 40 percent. The sedentary men also looked remarkably older than their runner counterparts.
Manage chronic stress
People who face many struggles in life, and experience a higher level of chronic stress have shorter telomeres. To lower stress, try meditation and yoga – it’s two of the most powerful ways to combat chronic mental stress.
Eat an anti-aging diet
Foods rich in antioxidants like vitamin C (red peppers, kale), anthocyanins (blueberries), and polyphenols (dark chocolate, cloves) – contribute to an overall positive antioxidant balance, protecting DNA from oxidative stress. One study found that a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, and plant-based protein and low in red and processed meats, sodium, and added sugars, were especially beneficial to healthy cellular aging in women.
For those of you curious to find out your Telomere length, there is Telomere testing available. There are direct consumer tests that will give you your ATL, (average telomere length), and compare it to the averages of others in your age group.
Sending healthy cell vibes! 💋
Feature photo credit: luxurytravelevent.com