What are Telomeres and Why Are They Important?
Telomeres are protective barriers at ends of chromosomes in our cells that include our DNA sequences. Telomeres have been described like shoelace caps, that wear out, fray and shorten over time. As we age, DNA at the ends of chromosomes erodes. More visible signs of this include aging skin and greying hair. When telomeres become very short, cells can no longer divide and die. This is a factor in aging. In human cells, shorter telomeres indicate a higher probability of the risks of diseases of aging. For a telomere illustration, click here.
Telomerase is an enzyme that builds back telomeres that are wearing down over time. The more telomerase that is produced, the longer telomeres will last. The 2009 Nobel Prize was awarded for telomerase research.
Shirley's 5 Lifestyle Beauty Tips:
Follow these lifestyle tips to enhance youthfulness. All are proven to be associated with longer telomeres and more telomerase—a scientific measure of biological aging.
1. Be calm: Notice if your breath starts shortening or your muscles tighten up. Assess the situation. If there's no reason to be tense, breathe deeply and restore calm.
2. Enjoy nutrient rich foods: Eat a minimally processed, primarily plant-based diet of whole grains, dark leafy greens, multi-colored fruits and vegetables, healthy fats like olive oil, avocados and nuts, organic, free-range animal foods (if you eat meats and eggs) and a glass of wine with friends and family in pleasant, happy environments.
3. Be active: Enjoy moderate, consistent physical exercise. Get outside when possible for the extra 'green exercise' boost.
4. Be present: Practice meditation or mindfulness exercises to increase your ability to enjoy the present moment as often as possible.
5. Share quality time with friends and family: Social support is an important aspect of good health, particularly as we grow older. Cherish happy times with good friends and loved ones.
For some additional guidance on this topic, check out the video below. I explain what telomeres are and why they matter. Telomeres and telomerase are associated with preserving youthfulness, beauty, longevity and healthy aging. Learn the latest research overview and what you can do to improve your lifestyle habits based on proven factors.
The Exciting News: Your Lifestyle Matters
Telomere length is affected not only by genetics, but seems also to be influenced by lifestyle factors including those related to the mind-body connection. Scientists are investigating the following connections:
1. Psychological stress: Being under continual stress, such as that related to caring for a disabled child, led to shorter telomeres and lower telomerase resulting in accelerated aging among more stressed women when compared with women who did not have equivalent life stressors (Epel, Blackburn, Lin, Dhabhar, Adler, et al 2004).
2. Mediterranean Diet: People who ate a Mediterranean diet—rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, healthy fats like olive oil and low consumption of dairy products and meats, including wine with meals—had significantly longer telomeres compared with those who did not eat such a diet, in a 2014 study including over 4,600 middle-aged women. Researchers believed that it was not any one food, but rather the combination that provided nutrients to help the body reduce oxidative stress and inflammation (Crous-Bou 2014).
3. Exercise: Both men and women who were less active in their leisure time had shorter telomeres than those who exercised regularly, in a 2008 twin study of over 2400 men and women published in the Journal of the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine. Additional studies support the finding that consistent physical activity supports longer telomeres.
4. Mind-Body Activities: In a 2012 study of qigong practitioners reported in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, those who practiced over a 4-month period increased telomerase activity.
5. Meditation: Meditation training improved telomerase activity in family caregivers, in a 2013 pilot study conducted by Dr. Helen Lavretsky at University of California, Los Angeles. Participants in a 3-month meditation retreat had significantly higher amounts of telomerase when compared with control group subjects that did not attend, as noted in the June 2011 issue of Psychoneuroedoncrinology.
6. An Integrative Healthy LIfestyle: In a 5 year later follow-up study of men with low-risk prostate cancer who participated in a program that consisted of: a whole food, primarily plant-based diet, 30 minutes of walking 6 days a week, 60 minutes of stress management daily including yoga and meditation and a 60-minute support group once weekly, the more that the participants had continued to follow the healthy integrated lifestyle program, the longer the telomeres. The study was conducted by Dr. Dean Ornish, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and published in 2013 in The Lancet.
Notice how happiness, presence, good food and moderate activity are all building blocks for a full and healthy life.
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