Why do some people appear to age more rapidly than others? Not only might they look older, they actually feel older as well. A check of their telomeres indicates that they are aging more rapidly at the cellular levels. Their telomeres are shrinking. Small telomeres foretell a shortened healthspan.
So what is a telomere? This is the term for the noncoding DNA that appears at the end of each gene-bearing chromosome like the plastic tip at the end of a shoelace. And, like that shoelace tip, the telomere protects the chromosome as it does its work. Telomeres are tiny to start with, and they get shorter with each cell division. Telomeres have an important impact on health, but conversely, lifestyle makes a big difference for telomeres. Some of the ways we live shorten them more quickly, while others can actually help them grow longer.
How do telomeres respond to stress? (They don't like it.) Inflammation can make them shrink, as well. Exercise helps them grow longer even as it strengthens your muscles. Find out how mindfulness, meditation and a Mediterranean diet can affect your telomeres and your healthspan.
Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 alongside two colleagues for discovering telomerase. They also investigated telomeres' role in the aging process. She is currently president of the Salk Institute. Blackburn was elected president of the American Association for Cancer Research and is a recipient of the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, among many other awards. In 2007, she was named one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people.
Elissa Epel, PhD, is a leading health psychologist who studies stress, aging, and obesity. She is the director of the Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions Center at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Epel is associate director of the Center for Health and Community. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and serves on scientific advisory committees for the National Institutes of Health, and the Mind and Life Institute. She has received awards from Stanford University, the Society of Behavioral Medicine, and the American Psychological Association.
Drs. Blackburn and Epel are co-authors of The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer.
This is a tremendous light shed on human health and happiness. Telemere length, and maintaining it’s length over your lifetime appears to give a long, healthy and happy life. It reinforces the same message we are getting from science on Alzheimer’s research. Alzheimer’s appears to be caused by a cumulation of careless stressful living. Living a healthy, socially integrated life pays dividends in length and quality of life.
Thank you Dr’s Blackburn and Epel.