8 Lifestyle Choices to Lengthen Your Telomeres
I was first introduced to “telomeres” when I read the book by Dr. Mehmat Oz and Dr. Michael F. Roizen, You Staying Young – The Owner’s Manual for Extending Your Warranty.
I was intrigued first of all by the title. Who wouldn’t want to extend their “warranty!” Anyway, they, in layman terms, explained that our chromosomes have small caps on the ends called telomeres, which are like little plastic tips on shoelaces. I could picture that. They went on to say that every time a cell reproduces, that telomere gets a little shorter (just like that shoelace tip that wears off with time). They actually referred to these telomeres as our “Major Agers” (sounds serious!)
As our telomeres shorten, the cells they inhabit become ‘older’ and more dysfunctional and divide less frequently, and as a a result, our eyesight begins to fail, our immune system becomes less effective, our skin, normally youthful and vibrant, bcomes less elastic…these are just a few of the many changes associated when aging sets in.
Apparently our bodies have a protein called telomerase that automatically replenishes and rebuilds the ends of the chromosomes to keep cells (and us) healthy. So I am thinking, what is the problem? Just keep that telomerase replenishing and we are fine!
Unfortunately, that pesky emotion we call “stress” actually shortens our telomeres and turns down telomerase! Oh no! In fact, Dr. Oz states “The telomeres of people who feel more stressed are almost 50% shorter than people who say they are less stressed. Since scientists have a rough idea what the average telomere length is for a specific age, they can estimate how much older the higher stress group is biologically: a whopping nine to seventeen years, just by thinking they were aging faster, they actually age faster!” Yikes!
That stress can come at us in many ways…the neighbor’s dog constantly barking (sound familiar?), worry over unpaid bills, constant exposure to disasters happening around the world on tv (not to mention political ads!), endless “to do” lists, etc. It can build up as a massive amount of noise in our system. That stress, (similar to the saber-tooth tiger bearing down fast) actually shortens the telomeres on our chromosomes, making it harder to concentrate and even can contribute to memory problems.
So what is the answer? Dr. Oz states that one of the keys to having a healthy mind is to live as much as we can in the moment; that is thinking about what we are doing right now, not worrying about the mistakes we made yesterday or the headaches that await us tomorrow, which, in turn, helps us to reduce that noise. Sounds like a plan!
Inflammation, linked to a number of chronic diseases, is a key factor in the length of our telomeres, along with smoking, lack of exercise, obesity, lack of social support and even our sleeping patterns. Can you relate to any of these lifestyle factors? If so, now is the time to step up to the plate and work on making those simple, day to day lifestyle changes. And, of course, stress is something we all need to avoid at all costs.
A recent telomere study done by Shaklee, a 60 year old wellness company, compared people using Shaklee supplements for at least 5 years to healthy nonsmokers living in the San Francisco Bay area and actually found that those who used the supplements had significantly longer telomeres…in fact, the rate of telomere shortening in Shaklee users was 40% lower than a healthy control group! This is one more lifestyle factor to consider when making those changes.
We often blame our genes for our health destiny and our genetic traits do make us more or less predisposed to certain health issues; however, through a study of identical twins it was found that our longevity is based only one-quarter on our genetics and three-quarters on our behaviors and lifestyle choices!
One of my favorite lifestyle choices includes some of the very nutrients mentioned above in the supplement study by Shaklee. It is called the Shaklee Life Plan, the result of the foremost scientific research and decades of studies proven to promote every aspect of your health and includes a protein-rich meal shake and nutrients that are clinically proven to help provide the foundation for a longer, healthier life. I call the shake the “best breakfast on the planet.”
So to sum it up ~ to lengthen those telomeres and “extend your warranty” work on making these lifestyle changes:
- Reduce stress ~ practice mindfulness
- Do not smoke
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce inflammation through a healthy diet including lots of healthy vegetables
- Moderately exercise every day
- Get enough sleep
- Make friends and maintain a good social support system
- Enrich your diet with quality supplements
Do you have anything to add to this list? Feel free to comment and share what lifestyle changes you plan to make. We all want longer, healthier lives for ourselves as well as our family members. I recently found a fun website that helps you estimate your Real (health) age and life expectancy. Go here and take the quiz! I found out that I actually am health-wise only at 50 (my chronological age is actually 73) and my life expectancy can be over 100 because of the healthy habits I have incorporated into my life!