The Effect of Telomeres and Aging

Aging is an evitable part of life and consists of both subjective and objective characteristics and perceptions, with “I feel old,” “I found a new gray hair,” or “My body just does not work the way it used to,” all being facets of maturing.

Additionally, we tend to look how we feel, sparking the curiosity if both internal and external characteristics of aging can be mirrored. But what if we could lengthen years of life by tapping health at a cellular level? Telomeres may be the answer to looking and feeling young! 

Telomeres and Aging

First off, telomeres are the protective tips of DNA residing at the ends of chromosomes. They help prevent cellular damage and chromosomes from sticking together, which is imperative in maintaining genetic makeup. While researchers are studying just whether or not telomeres hold the key to longevity, it is known natural aging decreases telomere length. It is apparent by studying varying life stages, as newborn babies tend to have telomeres ranging in length from around 8,000 to 13,000 base pairs, with observations suggesting the number tends to decline by around 20 to 40 base pairs each year. And by the time someone turns 40, they could have lost up to 1,600 base pairs off telomeres. So with each year that passes, telomere length naturally shortens related to cell division, though by lengthening telomeres, cells can continue dividing and prolong the aging process. In fact, studies and researchers suggest…

…identifying length may predict the risk of chronic disease as well as lifespan.

…mice models lacking telomerase, the enzyme responsible for attaching new telomeric DNA, demonstrate signs of premature aging. Ultimately, accelerated telomere shortening may increase the rate of aging.

…short telomeres are linked to a number of health conditions, including bone loss and osteoporosis, heart and lung disease, cancer, and early cognitive slowing and Alzheimer’s age.

…individuals displaying shorter telomeres are shown to have poorer survival rates related to higher mortality risks from heart and infectious diseases.

What Now?

While chronological aging plays a role in telomere length, the pace in which they become shortened are variable and largely dependent on a number of factors. To maximize the health of telomeres and lessen the risk of premature aging and disease, make a complete lifestyle change targeting the following factors:

Diet

Nourish the telomeres and body with a nutritious diet, mostly filled with plant-based sources. Research implies colorful produce and omega-3 fatty acid sources, such as fatty fish and vegetable oils, combats against telomere shortening and aging.

Exercise

Exercise can keep the body looking and feeling young, as it is also linked to longer telomeres. Older adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day, including walking, biking, and swimming, along with the inclusion of resistance and balance training.

Weight

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is impetrative to health, as obesity has even been associated to exacerbated telomere shortening. Cultivating a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise can help ensure weight maintenance.

Stress

People manage stress in a multitude of ways, with some being more beneficial to health and telomeres than others. Individuals are encouraged to stop smoking and other forms of substance abuse, as such practices may expedite telomere shortening and the process of aging. Healthful techniques, including yoga and meditation, have not only shown to lessen stress, but may reduce the pace of telomere shortening and aging.

Support

Individuals finding support and trust in others tend to live happier, healthier lives. Nurturing close friend and family relationships offers solidarity along with the cultivation of telomere health. Make it a point to nourish not only the body with nutrients, but connections with others.

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Our team of dietitians, chefs and fitness experts love to share helpful information and tips to make living your best life as easy as possible. We stand for longer and healthier living through what we eat and how we live.