Oftentimes we may blame our genes for our health destiny. But is that true? Is it really because my mom and dad had certain health issues that I will too? We know that our genetic traits 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!
So why the question “how short are your telomeres?” According to Dr. Michael F. Roizen and Dr. Mehmet C. Oz, in their book (which I highly recommend) You Staying Young ~ The Owner’s Manual for Extending Your Warranty, explain that our chromosomes have small caps on the ends called telomeres, which are like little plastic tips on shoelaces. Every time a cell reproduces, that telomere gets a little shorter, just as the shoelace tip wears off with time. These doctors refer to telomeres as our “Major Ager,” (most likely because every major disease is the result of shorter telomeres). Our body has a protein ~ called telomerase ~ that automatically replenishes and rebuilds the ends of the chromosomes to keep cells (and you) healthy.
Unfortunately, stress shortens our telomeres and turns down telomerase. Dr. Oz states, “The telomeres of people who feel more stressed are almost 50% shorter than people who say they’re 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.” Looks like a great reason to learn how to slow down, perhaps using such techniques as meditation.
Just by adding a 30 minute walk can add years and quality to our lives. Meditation and exercise and of course not smoking are all factors known to help with the length and health of our telomeres.
Stress can come at us in many ways ~ the neighbor’s dog constantly barking, worry over unpaid bills, constant exposure to disasters happening around the world on tv, endless “to do” lists, etc. It can build up as a massive amount of noise in our system. So what is the answer? Dr. Oz states that one of the keys to having a healthy mind is to live as much as you can in the moment; that is thinking about what you’re doing right now, not worrying about the mistakes you made yesterday or the headaches that await you tomorrow, which, in turn, helps to reduce the noise in your system. That stress (similar to the saber-tooth tiger bearing down fast) actually shortens the telomeres on your chromosomes, making it harder to concentrate and contributes to memory problems as well. The next time you are playing with your children (or grandchildren), make the effort to be there intentionally and not let your mind wander to thoughts about tomorrow’s workday or the world’s problems. This can help not only you but the people around you!
I just recently was looking at a WebMD list of 18 Secrets to Longevity and wanted to share them with you. I do believe these all will help reduce the shortening of our telomeres!
1. Become more conscientious (like attention to detail and persistence)
2. Make friends
3. Chose your friends wisely
4. Do not smoke
5. Embrace the “siesta”
6. Follow a Mediterranean diet – high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and fish
7. Eat like an Okinawan (a diet high in green and yellow veggies and low in calories)
8. Get married
9. Lose weight
10. Drink in moderation
11. Have a faith
12. Forgive and let go
13. Use safety gear (eg. seat belts)
14. Get enough sleep
15. Use yoga, meditation and deep breathing to reduce stress
16. Have a greater sense of purpose
17. Develop healthy habits to protect your DNA
I would have to add to that list a certain supplement that is known to help with inflammation as well as stop cellular aging. My husband and I take that every day.
So what about you? Have you thought about what it takes to extend your life? There is a fun website I found 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 71) and my life expectancy can be over 100 because of the healthy habits I have incorporated into my life.