Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Is your biological clock running ahead of schedule creating premature wrinkles, greying temples and etched lines around your eyes and mouth? Are your friends ageing more gracefully than you? Fear not. You could simply be a victim of stubby telomeres that need just an extension.
Telomeres are the endcaps of chromosomes that prevent our DNA from unravelling, kind of like the ends of shoelaces. In 1973, a Russian scientist Alexey Olovnikov discovered that telomeres shorten as we age and are unable to replicate completely once a cell divides. Animal studies suggest this is what is responsible for cellular ageing. Furthermore short telomeres are indicative of insufficient DNA repair which increases the risk from heart disease and cancer.
So what can I do to stop my telomeres from fraying and frazzling? How can I have good quality telomeres?
The secret of terrific telomeres
Diet. The good news is that telomere length is influenced by our nutritional status. To ensure longer telomeres we need to be eating good quality proteins, especially sulphur rich proteins found in eggs and red meat. Telomeres thrive on a nutrient rich diet high in antioxidants such as those found in fruits and vegetables.
These little guys love omega 3 oils found in fish like salmon and mackerel and in krill oil. They are also partial to vitamins B12, Folate, C, D, E, zinc, iron and magnesium. Magnesium is important as it helps stabilise DNA and promotes DNA replication. A deficiency of this mineral causes a rapid loss of telomeres. A lack of zinc in older people has been shown to shorten telomeres.
Exercise. Physical activity helps reduce stress hormones such as cortisol which shorten our telomeres. So if you go for a brisk walk at least once a day you are not only working out your muscles but you are extending those telomeres by up to 75%. So get moving.
Relaxation. Stress sizzles those telomere ends like nothing else. With stress telomeres are undernourished and prone to ageing. Circulating stress hormones create free radical damage to cells and increase the inflammatory response. This is why it is so vital to incorporate relaxation breaks into your day, to help minimise the stress response. Studies have shown that children who lived in a stressful environment have shorter telomeres by up to 40%.
Optimism. A lack of joy and pessimism is a formula for short stubby telomeres. Pessimists have been found to have shorter telomeres than optimists. Smiling and practicing random acts of kindness increases your own happiness quotient and lengthens those telomeres.
Sleep. We need at least 8 hours sleep for healthy telomeres. I need my sleep and find that without it my skin feels taut and dry. So hit the snoozer and create a peaceful bedtime routine that helps you transit from day to night. Unplug any devices that keep your brain overstimulated and those stress hormones pumping.
Working with clients has afforded me an insight into the rejuvenating effects of diet, supplements and lifestyle changes. The structure and support of my health programme with its emphasis on incremental change enables my clients to adopt a healthier lifestyle without feeling stressed. When there is too much of a gap between where you are now and where you want to be, scaffolded changes introduced on a weekly basis facilitate that process.
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