The People's Perspective on Medicine

A Sensible Lifestyle Slows Down Aging at the Cellular Level

A good diet, regular exercise and stress management may be the best way to slow down the aging process. Ever since Ponce de Leon started searching for the fountain of youth, people have sought a magic elixir to reverse aging. Americans spend billions on hormones, anti-aging creams, antioxidants and other dietary supplements. But so far none have been proven the life extenders that so many wish for.

A new study by Dean Ornish and his colleague Nobel Prize-winner Elizabeth Blackburn examined the effect of a mostly vegetarian diet, meditation, yoga, group support and exercise among men who had been diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer. At the end of five years, the men who had followed this lifestyle intervention had significantly longer telomeres than at the beginning of the study.

Telomeres are the caps on the ends of chromosomes that help keep them from unraveling, somewhat like the tip on the end of a shoelace. The men in the control group, who maintained their usual habits, had slightly shorter telomeres at the end of the study. In previous research, telomere length was linked to better health and greater longevity.

Although the study was small, with only 10 men in the treatment group and 25 in the control group, the results are intriguing enough to support the idea that diet, exercise and stress management could be important contributors to good health and longer life.

[The Lancet Oncology, online, Sept 16, 2013]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Thank you, Cindy, and continuing improved health to you!

I don’t think there’s any test for measuring one’s telomeres, as they are so microscopically small. (HOWEVER, if the men in the study had measurable changes in their telomere length, maybe I’m wrong on that!)
Because of breathing mold spores in my basement workstation, having a mouthful of broken/disintegrating mercury fillings, and harboring 2 gum infections for about 20 years, I lost most of my short-term memory rather suddenly and finally realized I had disintegrating telomeres. I remedied all the above situations and got on the web to study how to re-knit telomeres! There are certain supplements you can add (astragalus is one), and of course one must follow the Mediterranean diet and get lots of exercise and consciously avoid stressors and stressful emotional reactions…. all these things I’ve done, and I’m happy to report that more than 80% of my short-term memory is now restored, over the course of about 2 years. I’m looking forward to repairing the rest of those little buggars. Live and learn; live and learn.

How would one go about getting one’s telomeres measured? Knowing the length might be helpful as an indicator of the path one is on.

It might be useful for readers, like me, to know about the “kind” of vegetarian diet used in this and other studies. I have not eaten meat in years, but I do consume fish and, having been diagnosed with osteopenia, I eat lots of dairy. I’ll check the reference, but appreciate that you condense and reference the literature – I’d would just like a little more info.

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