DNA and telomeres

Scientists have been diligently looking for the key to unlock the mystery of the aging process.

Discoveries show that they are getting closer and one of the most important pieces of the puzzle seems to rely on the telomeres.

In 2009 scientists Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak were honored the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2009 with the discovery of the telomeres.

telomeres and aging

How do telomeres influence the aging process?

Natural deterioration of the cells associated with the aging process occur in our DNA.

Our DNA contains the chromosomes that hold the genetic material that differentiates the distinctive characteristics of who we are.

The tips of the chromosomes are protected by caps (kind of the caps at the end of a shoelace) which protect the information in the chromosomes.

Our cells are designed to divide & replicate giving life to new cells.

It was discovered that every time the cell divides, the telomeres become shorter and less effective, thus, exposing the chromosomes to suffer injury and degeneration until the cell is not longer able to divide and it dies.

Basically the length of the telomeres represent the longevity of the cells, the longer the telomeres the more resistant to aging we are. This phenomenon may not necessarily match the person’s chronological age, since relevant elements such as lifestyle, nutrition and environmental exposure have a big influence on how telomeres behave.

Another key factor in the game is the telomerase enzyme.

It has proven to lengthen telomeres and protects them from deteriorating too fast or too early.

**However, further studies are still needed because while telomerase does lengthen telomeres, it seems to play an important role at contributing to the growth of tumors in people with cancer.

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Nevertheless, it is clear that the longer our telomeres are, the better our health and our longevity.  So let’s take a look at what we can do to support and preserve the length of the telomeres.

 

* Avoid sugary and highly-processed foods. Unhealthy snacks and foods high in fats and sugar produce a significant increase in stress hormone, cortisol leading to an inflammatory response which in turn contributes to shorter telomeres.

* Maintain a diet rich in antioxidants and essential nutrients

Oxidative stress  (when there are too many free radicals in comparison to antioxidants) shortens telomeres.

* Reduce chronic stress 

Stress is now part of our busy lives. Since we are constantly in a sympathetic mode( fight-or-flight response) our body produces extra hormones among which is cortisol. High levels of cortisol eventually induce  chronic inflammation depleting all body systems and affecting and the length of the telomeres leading to many health illnesses and accelerated aging.

* Practice Meditation 

Meditation is a wonderful practice to bring focus and tranquility to our life. Reducing stress and anxiety is essential for our health. It helps to lower levels of cortisol and other stress hormones that trigger chronic inflammation. Lower levels of stress help to lengthen the telomeres.

* Healthy Sleep. Good quality sleep  is crucial for cell repair contributing to longer telomeres.

*Curcuma ( Reduces chronic inflammation and it is a powerful antioxidant reducing oxidative stress).

*Vitamin D. A molecular connection was found recently between vitamin D and DNA restoration, an action closely involved in the maintenance of telomere length.

*Vitamin B’s . B vitamins, including vitamins B6, B12, and folate are vital influences in the breakdown of the molecules that make up DNA supporting normal cellular replication.

*Vitamins C and E Help prevent telomere shortening and enhance the integrity of older cells

*Foods rich in omega 3 A study conducted in 2010 in The Journal of the American Medical Association showed that higher the levels of omega-3 in the blood, contributed to prevent telomere shortening over 5 years.

*Astralagus Root ( used for over 2000 years in Chinese medicine because of its anti-aging benefits) it is found in  teas, extracts or tonics. It helps to stimulates the immune system and contains powerful antioxidants and flavonoids. An article written by the A & D Aging and Disease  describes: “Pharmacological research indicates that the extract component of Astragalus membranaceus can increase telomerase activity, and has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunoregulatory, anticancer, hypolipidemic, antihyperglycemic, hepatoprotective, expectorant, and diuretic effects.”

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Although science continues with the process of discovering all the different pathways in which telomeres influence the aging process, the already available information reveals great promises. Therefore, implementing lifestyle changes that contribute to preserve/expand the length of the telomeres to help us better our health and longevity are certainly worth a try.

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Thank you for being here.

Until next time,

Dora Salazar

Medical Aesthetician

Founder of Zkin Fix Anti-aging Skincare

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References

https://www.ornish.com/zine/five-foods-that-protect-telomeres/

https://www.lifeextension.com/Magazine/2016/12/Research-Update/Page-01

https://www.elle.com/life-love/a43029/telomeres-and-sleep/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20085953

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5758356/