Telomeres are the timekeepers of our body’s cells. They are little caps, or tails, on the end of each strand of our DNA that protect our chromosomes from breaking down. And they’re best compared to the plastic tips on shoelaces — plastic tips are to shoelaces as telomeres are to chromosomes —they stop the ends from fraying. And this affects how we age.
The simple science behind their secret is this —
The longer your telomeres, the slower your cells age, the longer and more vital your life.
Telomeres naturally shorten as we age, but the rate at which they shorten is linked to health and longevity. Science says, if we focus on lifestyle choices that affect telomere length, we can alter the rate of telomere shortening. This also happily affirms the notion that our genetics aren’t necessarily our destiny.
Our telomeres reflect the vitality of our body, our ability to meet daily demands and challenges, and the rate of our biological aging (as opposed to chronological aging).
Short telomeres are reflective of inefficient gene function, including inflammation, oxidative stress, and cellular aging. And perhaps it’s no surprise that one of the top aging markers that prematurely shortens telomeres is chronic negative stress.
“Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older.” ~ Hans Selye, Biologist
The Beginnings of The Ends
What can you do to protect and boost your telomeres?
This article provides an inclusive list of nutrients that promotes longer telomere lengths, listing 16 nutrients worth looking into:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K2
- Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
- Curcumin (Turmeric)
- Ubiquinol (CoQ10)
- Fermented Foods / Probiotics
- Krill Oil
- Polyphenols (resveratrol, cacao, green tea)
Meditation, not as far-out as once viewed, is well worth the relatively small time investment, offering potential payoffs far beyond its time cost. Adding time to meditate in your schedule is reported to significantly slow the aging process by minding telomeres.
“One of the most effective interventions, apparently capable of slowing the erosion of telomeres — and perhaps even lengthening them again — is meditation,” according to the CNN article detailing the telomere research of Nobel Prize-winner Elizabeth Blackburn.
“When it comes to staying young, a mind-lift beats a face-lift any day.”
~ Marty Bucella
“Yoga has been proven to turn on the enzyme, called telomerase, that creates and lengthens telomeres.” So roll out your yoga mat and roll back the years, because yoga makes you younger.
Telomere length is measurable and quantifiable. Many scientific studies use the telomere length of white blood cells as a measure of age rather than a time-based measure. And In one of these studies, the telomeres were measured in genetically identical twins. Intriguingly, the results showed that athletic twins consistently had longer telomeres than their sedentary twin, concluding the difference could not originate from genetics.
Poor sleepers, whether by quality or duration (defined as less than 7 hours) have significantly shorter telomeres. So getting an optimal amount of sleep and the old adage, ‘early to bed, early to rise’ appear to have serious consequences when not adhered to over time.
Highly stressed people consistently reveal shorter telomeres. Studies show if you optimize your attitude, you can reduce your stress, protect your telomeres, and even promote their repair.
“Our greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another” ~ William James
Two books, Telomere Time Bombs and The Immortality Edge delve further into the secrets of telomeres and include ways to reduce stress at the cellular level, improve sleep habits, and help with focused concentration, if you’re interested in further reading.
So that’s the long and the short of it.
How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
If you enjoyed this Off the Mat Chats post you may also enjoy reading:
This article was contributed by Jane Hill – fierce Bikram Yogi, lover of all things natural, and my best yoga buddy. Look for more articles by Jane in the Off the Mat Chats section of Views From the Podium!