In people who are older than 60 researchers have shown that those with shorter telomeres are eight times more likely to die from infectious diseases and three times more likely to die from heart disease. Although all telomeres shorten with age, an unhealthy lifestyle is linked to significantly greater telomere shortening. Researchers studying telomeres believe that lifespan may be increased by as much as five to ten years by changing habits that impact telomere length. Here are the most important choices you can make to protect your telomeres.
Knock out inflammation, and eat an antioxidant rich diet.
Eliminate added sugar, white bread, unhealthy fats and processed meat.
Do whatever you must to stay at a healthy weight for your height.
At the risk of being redundant. Stay active and reduce sitting time. Moving your body several times everyday provides phenomenal health benefits, not the least of which is slamming the brakes on aging considerably. Daily activity boosts your resistance to infections, guards against chronic inflammation and helps to combat stress. You’ll get slim and you’ll be protecting the length of those all important telomeres. In one study that followed 2,400 twins, being regularly active during leisure time meant significantly longer telomeres (about 10 years younger biologically) compared to persons who were inactive.
Watch your alcohol and never smoke cigarettes. If you smoke now is the time to quit. Have you ever looked at people who smoke regularly or who drink excessively? They do not paint a pretty picture. They always look older than they should for their age. Heavy drinking and smoking ages you at a cellular level. The American Association for Cancer Research reported that telomere length was dramatically shorter (about half as long) in those who consumed heavy amounts of alcohol compared to those who did not. In a study reported in the UK, telomere shortening caused by smoking one pack of cigarettes a day for 40 years was equivalent to the loss of almost 71⁄2 years of life. Bottom line: don’t smoke and if you drink, do so only in moderation (one drink daily for women and two for men).
Zen extends life. If you’re chronically stressed out, anxious, lonely or depressed, your telomeres are probably shorter. If you have recently suffered a great loss, you’re also at risk. Stress hormones, like cortisol, make you gain weight around the middle, think belly fat. The hormone also damages cells and hastens aging. In a study involving healthy premenopausal women, those with the highest levels of perceived stress had telomeres shorter on average by the equivalent of at least 10 years of additional aging compared to low stress women.
In a demonstration of all of the points made here today, a UC study found that telomere shortening was less pronounced in high stress women if they exercised, ate well and got enough sleep. Good self-care must be a priority.
There is also good news for meditators. Meditation also benefits telomere health. Om.