Have you ever noticed that some people seem to look and feel years younger than their real age, while others appear to be much older? Of course, lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking, diet and stress levels play a part in how we age, but did you know that there’s a solid biological factor at play behind the rate at which each of us age called telomeres?
Telomeres are the capping structure at the end of your DNA that make up your chromosomes. A Nobel prize-winning doctor called Elizabeth Blackburn and her colleague Dr. Elissa Epel have discovered that these telomeres don’t simply carry out genetic instructions. Instead, they are listening to you and the instructions which you give them on a daily basis. Every time you feel happy, sad, stressed or relaxed your telomeres absorb this and react either negatively or positively.
Telomeres contribute to the speed at which you age, your mood and the state of your brain as well as your risk of degenerative diseases – therefore if your telomeres are happy then you are slowing down your chances of premature ageing, or ending up suffering with ill health.
Every time the cells in our bodies divide, their telomeres become shorter and eventually they become so short that cells are no longer able to divide and so they die off. When this happens, it’s bad news because it signals the onset of chronic disease, and even death.
Obviously, this process effects every part of your body as we have cells all over our bodies; with each of us wonderful humans being made up of an average of 32.7 trillion cells! If you protect your telomeres from shortening, or at least, make an effort to slow the process, you can increase your health span (which is the number of years that your body remains disease-free, healthy and active).
Whilst genetics do determine the length of your telomeres when you’re born and how quickly they diminish, the wonderful news is that we can do lots of things to proactively help protect our telomeres and keep them robust. They’re listening to us and are ready for instructions, and there’s evidence that a negative mindset and an unhealthy lifestyle will be taken by our telomeres as a signal from us to unravel faster:
“There are many published studies demonstrating that telomere length is the single, most important biomarker for ageing and that telomere attrition is associated with oxidative stress, diabetes, anxiety, cardiovascular and practically all age-related diseases,” Menelaos Tsapekos of Life Length who are specialists in telomeres, tells Lumity. “Recent studies have shown how vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega-3, CoQ10 and various other micronutrients in natural ingredients are associated with telomere protection.”
Therefore, taking a high quality supplement containing the above nutrients would help protect your telomeres on a daily basis, and according to Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel, there’s several other things that you can do to keep your telomeres happy:
Have you heard the saying, ‘if you can’t change a negative situation, you can change your reaction to it’? Well, this applies when it comes to looking after your telomeres as the stress response is linked to shortening telomeres. Stay as calm and positive as you can and learn stress management techniques, as well as building calming activities into your day.
Meditation, yoga and Qigong
There is solid proof that several wonderful mind-body techniques like meditation, yoga and Qigong increase telomerase, which is an enzyme that replenishes telomeres. But they also reduce stress, serving up a double whammy of premature ageing prevention.
Scientists have found that any exercise that increases your heart rate improves telomere maintenance. HIIT, or high-intensity interval training has been shown to be particularly effective, but spin classes, zumba, or anything that makes your heart beat faster is going to help not only your telomeres, but the endorphins you’ll get will make you feel happy – providing a double whammy.
Avoid processed meat
Telomeres do not like processed or fast food like hot dogs, chicken nuggets and greasy burgers from big fast food chains, they love fresh, whole foods. You’ll feel better if you’re eating healthily, so if you have lots of fresh soups and easy to prepare lean protein vegetables and fruit at home, you’ll be less likely to opt for telomere fraying food.
Sleep is the fountain of youth
Sleeping really might just be the fountain of youth, as studies have shown that people who sleep for less than seven hours a night had shorter telomeres. Not getting enough quality sleep accelerates ageing, so make sure you hit the sheets early at night and treat yourself to a lovely, long beauty sleep as often as you can.
Other factors that upset your telomeres are long-term chronic stress, negative thoughts, difficult and rocky personal relationships, and even living in areas that are heavy on pollution and where the fear of crime and worries like burglaries are a factor that frazzle your telomeres.
In summary, if you can change any areas of your life that are making you unhappy or stressed, and you make sure you’re eating healthily, exercising regularly and sleeping well at night, then you will increase your overall biological lifespan. How exciting is it to think that instead of it being found in expensive lotions and potions on the shelves of the beauty section of department stores, we had the key to longevity hidden inside us all along.