February 2017


    Be Stronger, Live Longer: Taking Steps to keep your telomeres long

    can essentially turn back the clock on your biological age.


    The secret to staying fit is proteins called telomeres that protect your chromosomes from damage.  Keep them durable and resilient, and they’ll ensure you stay hardy and healthy in return.


    You can control how young you look and feel simply by tapping into little-known power sources in your cells.  Telomeres, tiny protein sheaths on the end of your chromosomes, help keep your DNA in prime condition; studies have linked longer telomeres with better brain power, a reduced risk of disease, and a longer life.  But factors like chronic stress, a lack of exercise and sleep, and a poor diet can cause your telomeres to deteriorate.  If they wear down too much, the genetic material in your chromosomes is no longer protected.  This inhibits your cells’ ability to function properly, which speeds up the aging process.  Happily, you can easily and quickly strengthen your telomeres.  Studies show that within weeks of making small changes to your lifestyle, your telomeres improve.  Read on to learn about the strategic moves that will lengthen yours and make you even healthier.  Also, read Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn’s new book, The Telomere Effect, available now.


    Omega-3 fats and fiber help fight chronic inflammation, which makes your cells divide faster, prematurely wearing down your telomeres.  Your body converts omega-3s into hormones that moderate inflammation.  And fiber prevents the insulin spikes that fuel inflammation.   Get at least 1000 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids a day from fish like salmon, nuts like walnuts or an algae-based supplement and at least 25 grams of fiber a day from foods such as legumes, produce and grains.   In addition, eat vitamin C-rich citrus fruits, berries and bell peppers daily.  Vitamin C protects cells from oxidative damage, which can shorten telomeres.


    If you’re getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night, tossing and turning, or going to bed and getting up at different times every day, you’re more likely to suffer from inflammation and oxidative stress, which can shorten your telomeres.  To get better sleep, build transition time into your routine.  Most of tend to do work or watch stimulating TV right up until we turn in.  The mind needs a slow descent into slumber.  Put your phone on airplane mode and read or listen to a relaxing podcast for a few minutes, and you’ll fall into a sounder sleep faster.


    Exercise increases levels of telomerase, making telomeres longer and healthier.   But be sure to switch up your routine: so if you’re a runner, do some cycling and add in some strength training and walking or yoga too.  People who participated in two, three, or four types of activities a month were respectively 24, 29, and 52 percent less likely to have short telomeres compared with those who did none.  Different forms of exercise may affect telomeres in different ways: a range will have the biggest impact on telomere length.


    Chronic stress can increase the odds that your telomeres will deteriorate.   But people who practiced just 12 minutes a day of meditation and/or chanting experienced a significant increase (43%) in their activity of telomerase, an enzyme that lengthens telomeres.  Chanting not your thing?  Regular meditation, hatha yoga, and pretty much any kind of exercise will reduce chronic stress.


    For every additional hour people sit in front of a screen per day, they have a 7% increase in their odds of having short telomeres.  The solution: Spend more time on your feet throughout the day.  Take your phone calls standing up, go for short walks every hour, or get up and do a few stretches or yoga moves. 


    Certain indoor pollutants like benzene and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can stretch your telomeres in unhealthy ways, which can increase your risk for cancer.  Get an air purifier to help filter out these chemicals, or bring more plants into your home or office.  There is evidence that certain types, like Boston ferns, peace lilies, English ivy and philodendrons, can help clean the air.  Two plants for every hundred square feet is supposedly enough for keeping your air filtered.


    Studies cited are from British Journal of Sports Medicine, University of California/Los Angeles, The University of Mississippi.


    Mirel Ketchiff