Telomeres: Our Biological Clock


Telomeres are the caps on the ends of our chromosomes or DNA strands.  They are like the tips of shoelaces.  Without these plastic tips on the ends of our shoelaces, the shoelaces quickly start unravelling.  The same is true of our DNA.

As we age our telomeres gradually get shorter and shorter.  This is like the sand in the hourglass ticking away the years of our lives.  When our telomeres get too short our DNA is no longer protected.  Thus, when cells divide, errors will be made causing cancer and other chronic medical conditions.  Eventually, our telomeres get too short to maintain life.  Fortunately, there are things we can do to lengthen our telomeres and reverse aging at the cellular level.  By making these changes now, we can reverse our biological age and dramatically slow the overall aging process.   We can start growing younger today!

Six Ways to Reverse Your Biological Age

  1. Manage Stress to Shave 10 Years Off Your Telomeres

In a very interesting study, Dr. Elissa S. Epel from the University of California at San Francisco and colleagues determined that those who perceived they were under the most stress for the longest periods of time, prematurely aged their telomeres by about 10 years.  Fortunately, in a separate study, she showed that mindfulness and meditation could reverse this premature aging effect to telomeres.  While we cannot avoid stress, we can change how we perceive stress and we can block the effects of stress on our telomeres through mindfulness, meditation, etc.

  1. Exercise To Take 10 Years of Your Telomeres

exerciseIn a similar study, Dr. Lynn F. Cherkas from King’s College in London showed that in 2,401 twins that regular exercising slowed telomere aging by about 10 years when compared to their non-exercising twin.  The message here is clear, exercise can reverse or slow the aging process.

  1. Eat a Healthy Diet To Reverse Telomere Aging By 5 Years

Many studies have shown that a healthy diet can reverse or slow telomere aging.  In particular, diets high in vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts, seeds, and legumes can protect our telomeres from shortening.  Sugar, processed foods, and processed meats have the opposite effect to our telomeres.  Eat right to stay young!

  1. Maintain an Ideal Weight To Lengthen Telomeres By 9 Years

Being overweight is another cause of premature aging.  Carrying excessive weight causes oxidative stress, or “rusting,” to our cells resulting in telomere shortening and premature aging.  Studies show that maintaining an ideal body weight can lengthen our telomeres by 9 years.

5. Sleep At Least 7 Hours To Reverse Telomere Old Ag

sleepSleep is when our bodies go into repair mode.  We need this repair process functioning optimally if we want to reverse our biologic age and “grow younger.”  In a fascinating study, researchers found that older people sleeping at least 7 hours had the telomeres of middle aged people. In other words, at the cellular level, you can completely reverse telomere “old age” with at least seven hours of restorative sleep each night.

  1. Avoid Loneliness for Optimal Telomere Health

Social isolation, or feeling lonely, is not only a powerful predictor of heart disease but telomere shortening as well.  In one study, social connection was shown to be an additional way to keep our telomeres long.  Thus, if you want to slow the aging process, stay connected to your friends and family every day .

Dr. John Day:
Dr. Day is a cardiologist/electrophysiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowships in cardiology and electrophysiology at Stanford University. He currently serves as the president of the Utah chapter of the American College of Cardiology.


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