Maintaining Your Youth And The Science Of Telomeres
Hello, my friends.
Lately, there has been a lot of research on telomeres and ageing. So today I would like to share with you, some of the fascinating studies and offer some tips on keeping you young!
So what are telomeres and how can they keep you young?
Well, telomeres are caps at the end of chromosome strands which protect the chromosomes, much like the caps at the end of our shoe laces. When telomeres are long the chromosomes are protected from damage. When cells divide, the telomeres shorten slightly.
You want to keep them long and healthy so cells can keep dividing.
When telomeres are short the cells become senescent and pro-inflammatory. Eventually, they reach what's called the "Hayflick Limit" and can no longer divide, which over time is getting closer to the death of you.
In short, the length of your telomeres is an indication of your biological age. Long healthy telomeres are more about a longer healthspan rather than lifespan. When they are healthy, the disease is compressed to the end of our lives.
The good news is we can slow down the shortening and even add length to our telomeres! Most of the research from this article comes from Dr. Elissa Eppel and researcher Elizabeth Blackburn who wrote 'The Telomere Effect'.
I was BLLOOWWWN AWAY by the amount of double blind peer-reviewed studies in this book (Gold Standard Stuff) and the fact that Blackburn won a Nobel Prize in medicine for telomere research was impressive.
So let's get started with some information on how to protect your telomeres and keep you young! First, let's look at stress and see how telomeres are affected.
Interesting enough, the research shows it's not stress which shortens our telomeres, but rather how we respond to the stress.
Let's say we have a challenging project at work. If we get pumped up, excited and challenged by the stress, this is called a "Challenge Response". If that same project causes us worry, doubt, procrastination, and anxiety, then this is termed a "Threat Response".
Studies show that those who respond with a Challenge Response protect their telomeres, staving off disease and ageing; while those who respond through Threat Response show telomere deterioration. A study was done with a group of students writing entrance exams; a stressful situation. Half the group was taught a reframing technique where they were taught to view the stress as energizing; something that would help them perform better.
This group did better in the lab in regards to telomeres and in real life.
Just as sure as the sun will rise and fall, stresses will be in our lives. If you want to protect your telomeres and stay young, the answer is in how we respond to these stresses, not the stresses themselves!
Often we are guilty of playing the same record over and over in our minds in regards to stresses and problems. This constant replaying of problems, many of which haven't happened, has also been shown to negatively affect the health of our telomeres and cause premature ageing.
In the book 'The Telomere Effect', the authors talk about a technique termed "Cognitive Defusion" to break the pattern. In this technique, we put the problem on a movie screen and watch as a casual observer and learn. This takes the emotion out of the situation and can give a healthier global perspective on the problem.
From a distance, thoughts are just thoughts.
Further studies in 'The Telomere Effect' point to other issues which negatively affect telomere health. The authors have coined these issues 'Inflammaging'. Two of the big culprits are diet and sleep.
Let's take a look at these more closely.
In regards to diet, studies show the two biggest culprits affecting telomere health and bringing on premature ageing are processed foods and trans-fats. The easiest way to identify processed foods is to look down an ingredients list. If there are any items you do not recognize, you are not eating foods, but rather a product.
Trans-fats are when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. To identify trans-fats, look at the ingredients list for "partially hydrogenated oils".
Follow these two rules and you will protect your telomeres and slow down ageing.
Now that you know which foods to avoid for optimum telomere health and anti-ageing, let's take a look at some great foods for telomere health.
Let's start with the good news; coffee lovers rejoice!
Studies show that high grade chemical-free organic coffee support telomere health. Marine phytoplankton, kelp, spirulina and chlorella, which can all be added to smoothies, are fantastic. Seafood has also been shown to be highly beneficial. Additionally, Omega 3's are highly beneficial to telomere health. Seafood, fish oils, walnuts, leafy green vegetables and organic beef are good sources.
Now, let's take a look at how sleep affects telomere health and anti-ageing.
The key with sleep is quality. Just as a calorie is not just a calorie, the same is true for sleep. Three hundred calories worth of broccoli is far different than 300 calories of twinkies.
Are You getting Twinkie Sleep?
Each phase of sleep; Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta all serve an important purpose in rebuilding and cleansing our bodies.If you are not getting quality sleep, you will wake up tired even after eight hours. Where as seven hours of quality sleep in which each sleep phase was reached, will leave you feeling refreshed.
Some examples are honouring circadian rhythms by getting to sleep by 10 pm or 10:30 pm and getting up between 5 am and 6 am. Eliminating blue light from computers and cell phones are another example. Making sure your room is totally dark will also help ensure quality sleep.
Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on quality sleep, which will give you a better understanding of what quality sleep looks like.
Finally, proper exercise has been clinically shown to improve the health of telomeres and slow down ageing. Again, not all exercise is equal. Exercise is catabolic in nature. That is, it's breaking down the body.
We actually leave the gym less healthy than when we entered.
Proper rest and nutrition are anabolic, which means building the body back up. The magic occurs when exercise, rest, and nutrition are combined in the proper proportions.
For me, it looks something like the following. I workout 3 times a week for about 40 minutes each time for my high-grade activity. For my mid-grade activity, I walk or jog up my eight flights of stairs 8-10 times a day. For my low-grade activities, I walk at least 5 kilometres a day.
The problems with telomere health and exercise tend to occur at both ends of the spectrum. The first being little or no exercise and the second being too much high-intensity exercise. The sweet spot occurs with a few high-intensity workouts a week, supplemented with daily mid and low-grade activity.
So there you have it!
We actually have some control over our biological aging. Our Phenotype (the choices we make in our lifestyles) have a larger effect than our Genotype (what we are born with).
That's exciting news!
I would love it if you send this on to someone that is looking to maintain their youth and stay tuned for many more upcoming helpful blogs.