On telomeres and aging
By now, we all know that aging is influenced by a lot of factors—there’s what we eat, our environment, our lifestyle, our genetics, sleep, and how we cope with stress. But biologically, how fast we age and our longevity may also be dependent on the length of our DNA’s telomeres. Telo-what? Find out what these are that may be the key to living longer, healthier lives.
The word telomere comes from Greek words telos that means “end” and “meros” that means “part.” They are found at the ends of the DNA’s chromosomes, like “caps” that protect it from disintegrating. It is an indicator of aging, such that it shortens when cells divide. When it becomes short enough, it fails to perform its function until the cells die. Telomeres naturally shorten as we age chronologically, but some individuals have shorter telomeres at a certain age than others. And while it is not an indicator of disease nor the only indicator of aging, a shorter telomere may cause inflammation or disease sooner, especially if you have a predisposition to a particular illness. At the same time, telomeres that are too long are not good either, as it is linked to cancer and tumors. This is why telomere length and telomere health may also be an important indicator of premature aging and longevity.
Fortunately, the length of our telomeres is not solely determined by genetics. This means that it is possible to slow down its shortening, or even lengthen it. Here are some of the ways it can be done.
Meditating and managing stress. Regular meditation, mindfulness, and stress management are not only linked to telomere length but for overall health as well.
Keeping your weight in check. Obesity increases inflammation and the risk for disease, and managing your weight is important for telomere health.
While it is not an indicator of disease nor the only indicator of aging, a shorter telomere may cause inflammation or disease sooner, especially if you have a predisposition to a particular illness.
Exercising. Since we were young, we have been hearing the countless benefits of exercise. Apparently, it may also affect telomere length. This is because exercise reduces oxidative stress, plus it also helps in weight management and overall health. It is important to start exercising while still young—if not, start as soon as you can.
Practicing a Mediterranean diet. A lot of those who live to their golden yearsaim to eat as much fresh food, beans, and healthy fats while avoiding processed, fried, and sugary food.
Supplementation. Vitamin D helps with telomerase activity, and Omega-3s help reduce oxidative stress as well, and both help with telomere health. Along with a healthy diet, these supplements can boost general health as well.
Practicing a healthy lifestyle. Sleeping early, getting ample rest, avoiding alcohol and smoking are some of the ways that are also associated with reducing oxidative stress, reducing inflammation, and may also slow down the shortening of telomeres.
While more studies are needed on telomeres and how it affects longevity and health, it is interesting how science helps us understand aging and our body more. Studies on telomeres tell us one thing: that you have control over your health, and living longer is a choice you can make. Make strides for your health starting today by looking at the changes you can make that can help you live healthier and longer.