Friday, October 22, 2010

Stretch Those Telomeres for a Longer Life

by Jean Henry Mead

Ever heard of telomeres?

They’re called countdown clocks because they determine how long you and your cells will last. Dr. Al Sears has written about them and lectured to the World Conference on Anti-Aging. Research into telomeres is so important that it won the Nobel Prize for Medicine last year.

But what are telomeres?

They’re tiny caps at the ends of DNA strands that serve as the blueprint for copies. Each time a cell divides, your DNA duplicates or clones itself.

“But, each time your cells divide, a little bit of each telomere is used up, and each gets a tiny bit shorter. When your telomeres become too short, DNA can’t copy itself correctly, and the cell stops dividing and dies. Overall, the shorter your telomeres, the older your body is, regardless of your actual age.”

The good news is that you can alter your aging clock by the food you eat and the way you live. Smoking and obesity shorten telomeres and speed up the aging process. On the other hand exercise slows down the shortening of your telomeres.

Even more important is that we now know the mechanism by which we age, and we can alter it. But there’s another reason the discovery is so significant. A new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that longer telomeres can dramatically reduce your risk of cancer.

Sears reports that there’s growing evidence linking short telomeres to a higher risk of cancer. For example:

~A Virginia study found that breast cancer cells had shorter telomeres than normal cells.

~A research team at Harvard discovered that having short telomeres nearly doubled the risk for bladder cancer.

~According to Japanese researchers, cancers of the mouth begin in cells with short telomeres.

~Even colon cancer cells have shorter telomeres.

A recent Italian study measured overall cancer risk. The doctors found that people with the longest telomeres were the least likely to develop cancer. In fact, they were more than 10 times less likely to develop the disease.  And people with short telomeres are twice as likely to die from cancer. So by taking steps to promote longer telomeres, you can boost your chances of enjoying your later years cancer-free.

Exercise is one of the best ways to slow the aging of your cells to a crawl and reduce your risk of cancer. German researchers discovered that intensive exercise keeps cardiovascular systems from aging by preventing the shortening of telomeres.

Another study from the University of California in San Francisco found that vigorous exertion protects you from high stress by protecting your telomeres. And eating right also lengthens them. Cold-water, high-fat fish like mackerel, wild salmon, lake trout and herring are good sources of omega-3, which can lengthen your telomeres. Also, plenty of raw nuts and seeds. Walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds are also good preventatives.

Besides exercise and eating the right foods, there are supplements that offer protection for telomeres, such as vitamins C and E and resveratrol, which are thought to slow the shortening process. According to the National Institutes of Health, women who take a multivitamin have 5 percent longer telomeres than those who don’t.

One vitamin is actually linked with lengthening telomeres, and you don’t even need a pill to get it. It’s vitamin D. Just 10 minutes in the sun gets you 10,000 units.

There's no mystery about living to a ripe old age. Start stretching those telomeres today to add additional healthy years to your life.


Mark W. Danielson said...

I've never heard of this, Jean. Thanks for sharing. I know a few people who need to read this post.

KK Brees said...

Guess I'll hake to the mailbox today, work those telomeres!

Chester Campbell said...

Very interesting, Jean. If we could invent a telomere measuring stick, we'd probably make a fortune.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I'd never heard of it either, Mark, until I received Dr. Sear's newsletter. I know quie a few people who should stretch their telometeres. :)

Jean Henry Mead said...

KK, that's a good idea and do it every day. Dr. Sears says that as little as 20 minutes a day of walking, biking, or swimming will lengthen your life.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Great idea, Chester. It wouldn't take a very big stick to measure those little guys.

Ben Small said...

I'd never heard of it, either, Jean. Fascinating stuff. Good thing Reb has me eating right and I've stopped smoking. Exercise? Yes, I need to get back to that...

Jean Henry Mead said...

Just twenty minutes a day will do it, Ben. A few laps in the pool . . .

Beth Terrell said...

Fascinating stuff, Jean. Good thing I got my treadmill desk up and running.

I can feel my telemeres shortening even as we speak!