Part 2 with how our nervous system contributes to faster aging. Lets review for a moment. The nervous system is like a communication system in your body, carrying messages to the brain. Within that communication system, you have cells. Cells are made of DNA, and one of the components of the DNA are what is know as telomeres.
Telomeres are little caps that are on the ends of each of our DNA strands, and their job is to protect our chromosomes. Sometimes it helps to think of our DNA as a shoelace, and telomeres would be the plastic caps at the ends of each lace. When the ends of the shoelaces become deteriorated, the shoelace becomes frayed and damage. The same relationship is true of telomeres and DNA strands. Simply put, short telomeres are bad. So bad they have been linked to higher likely hood of developing diseases such cancer, stroke, obesity, vascular dementia, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.
How to telomeres become damaged?
Many scientists have studied telomeres and as a result there are many understandings we have gotten to. But life events and habits tends to speed the aging process up. PTSD can cause shortened telomeres, stress at the workplace, at home, or in your life in general helps to short them more quickly as well. Eating a poor diet, and not having regular pattern of exercise.
Telomeres shorten as we age. The length of your telomeres is inherited from your parents, but what is universal for us all is that they shorten as we age. Depending on aspects of diet, stress, and exercises they can shorten more quickly, leaving your aging faster than people around you.
How do you lengthen aging telomeres?
- Reduce stress (meditate, learn to say NO, yoga stretching, take deep breaths to calm yourself down when stress is peaked)
- Stop smoking
- Loose excess weight
- Walk for 30 minutes a day
- Eat a whole foods, mostly plant-based
- Meditate (can’t say it enough)
- Take a multivitamin
- Master sleeping better, all night long!
- Stopping working so hard, and ask yourself what is more important (i.e. your health or meeting a deadline and getting a bigger paycheck doing it)
- Change how you wrangle stress (I choose to stop and take deep breaths to recenter and relax myself)
- Cut back on drinking alcohol*
Research out of UCSF show that mindfulness and a conscious diet of more whole foods is linked to telomere growth. Dr. Dean Ornish researched and found that in his study, individuals who ate mostly a vegan diet (rich in plant based proteins, fruits, vegetable, unrefined grains, and legumes with only 10% of their calories coming from fat) resulted with lengthening of the telomeres. Healthy lifestyle change is where it at!
Dr. Sara Gottfried’s story
Dr. Sara Gottfried is aboard certified Harvard/MIT/UCSF trained gynecologist who has learned a lot of telomere and overall women’s health. She has an interesting story. A doctor who ate well (mostly vegetarian), drank lots of water, and would exercise daily found out she had very short telomeres. She was aging 20 years faster than her chronological age. The largest culprit in her life was STRESS.
The life many of us life, with families, children, jobs, balancing of schedules, deadlines, appointments, cooking, ect. She had an ‘ah ha’ moment when she decided to switch her running exercise routine to be replaced by low impact, body strengthening palates and yoga. She also began a daily meditation practice, and says that she does not negotiate that time of her day today. 20 minutes of meditation is her new habit, and has shown her tremendous change. She also began looking at what foods where best for her body, and made decision that were right for her.
Simply put she reversed the aging processes for herself. Her telomeres grew longer, and she got younger looking, and feels amazing as a result.
She wrote and published a protocol for lengthening your telomeres and reversing the aging process. Younger: A breakthrough program to reset your genes, reverse aging, and turn back the clock 10 years that can teach you the ABCs of getting started on learning more about the telomeres and thinking about some key lifestyle changes.
-Nomi Shmerling, PhD (c)
*men who don’t drink have longer telomeres. Women do good when they have 1 serving of alcohol a week (1 beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine, 1.5 fluid ounces of distilled spirits).
Telomere Photo reference:
Eisenberg DTA. An evolutionary review of human telomere biology: the thrifty telomere hypothesis and notes on potential adaptive paternal effects. American Journal of Human Biology. 2011;23:149–167.