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Telomeres and Aging: Unraveling the Truth Behind Age-Related Conditions

Telomeres and Aging: Unraveling the Truth Behind Age-Related Conditions

This is a topic I have been obsessed with as of late. It may seem overwhelming but it is crucial information when it comes to the actual science of aging. Of course, you can always skip to the prevention section, but otherwise read on and enjoy!

 

This is a topic I have been obsessed with as of late. It may seem overwhelming but it is crucial information when it comes to the actual science of aging. Of course, you can always skip to the prevention section, but otherwise read on and enjoy!


When we think of aging, we tend to think of unsightly fine lines and so-called “senior moments” of forgetfulness. However, our whole bodies change as we age, and these changes begin on a cellular level. Scientists are beginning to understand the cellular changes that perpetuate the aging process, and shortening of telomeres and aging seem to go hand-in-hand.


What are Telomeres?


Our cells have 23 pairs of chromosomes, which are bundles of DNA that encode our genetic makeup. Chromosomes are discrete structures and therefore must be kept separate from one another, and must not unravel. At the ends of each chromosome, there is a repetitive sequence of nucleotides known as the telomere, which deters degradation of genes near the end of a chromosome during cell division, and prevents chromosomes from fusing with one another.


Telomeres Shorten with Age


Most of your body’s cells are constantly dividing to produce new cells in a process known as mitosis. During mitosis, enzymes known as polymerases copy the cellular DNA, and during each cell division, telomeres unravel and shorten. When we’re younger telomere shortening isn’t a big deal, but as we age and telomeres degrade further, cells become stressed and then don’t function properly or stop dividing in a process known as senescence. Moreover, high stress levels and poor lifestyle practices can further shorten telomeres, accelerating the aging process.
Consequences of Telomere Shortening


Dysfunctional and senescent cells with defunct telomeres cause all kinds of problems throughout our bodies. Shortened telomeres are known to be associated with stroke, cardiovascular disorders, vascular dementia, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and even many forms of cancer. Shortened telomeres are also thought to play a role in cosmetic consequences of aging, such as sagging skin, fine lines and age spots. Luckily, scientists are also working to slow, prevent or even reverse the process of telomere degradation.


Preventing Telomere Shortening


A groundbreaking study at UCSF recently identified that certain lifestyle changes substantially lengthened telomeres in human patients. When patients improved diet and exercise habits, increased social interaction and practiced yoga-based stress relief for 3 months, their telomeres extended by an average of 10% – a big difference in the aging body.
You can decrease age-related telomere degradation by making the following simple changes to your lifestyle:

  • Eat a whole food, plant-based diet that is low in fat and free of refined carbohydrates
  • Minimize other processed foods and preservatives
  • Practice moderate aerobic exercise, such as a 30-minute walk, 6 days per week
  • Make time for friends and family – they’re your support network and will help you de-stress
  • Consider seeking stress-management counseling if you’re having difficulty managing your stress
  • Practice gentle yoga-based stretching, relaxation and meditation dail

And of course, it doesn’t hurt to use quality skincare products that prevent moisture loss, stimulate collagen and turn over newer, healthier cells via efficacious ingredients like all-natural fruit acids, hyaluronic acid, and botanical ingredients from food sources.
Although there’s no stopping time, you can change how your body responds to aging. It’s unlikely that we’ll tap into the fountain of youth and find a magic elixir of life, but simple healthy lifestyle practices can make a palpable difference in telomere degradation, decreasing our risk of age-related conditions for a long, happy and healthy life.