My soul brother, colleague, and Oriental Medical Doctor, Pedram Shojai, and I recently took on the topic of cellular aging and how to slow it down when life is too fast.
Watch right here:
- New research from UCSF and Dean Ornish proves that mindfulness, diet and exercise is linked to better telomeres, a marker of longevity and cancer prevention (1).
- In a small study of 35 midlife men, researchers found that when they commit to comprehensive lifestyle changes, telomeres respond and aging slows down – dramatically.
- After 5 years, the subjects had 10% longer telomeres, whereas controls had a 3%shortening, common during aging.
- Bottom line: healthy lifestyle changes add up in big ways, and improve your body’s most important maintenance system, your telomeres.
Oh Telomeres, My Telomeres
Telomeres are like the plastic caps on shoelaces, but they live on the tips of your chromosomes in the cells of your body. They keep your cells in top shape, when long and lovely, and keep you from losing important genetic information as cells divide.
Telomere length is arguably the best marker of biological age, and shorter mean telomere length, usually measured in your white blood cells, is associated with increased risk of heart disease, obesity, cancer, stroke, dementia, and premature death (2). Telomerase, the enzyme that tends your telomeres, helps to keep your telomeres long as you age. Elizabeth Blackburn and colleagues at UCSF received the 2009 Nobel Prize for research on telomeres.
Not Dr. Ornish’s First Time at the Telomere Rodeo
Regarding Ornish’s contribution, this is not the first time at the rodeo.
Here are additional studies showing the benefit of healthy lifestyle changes (3). While I don’t want to sign up for a vegan and/or low-fat food plan, his data is compelling:
- Participants ate a mostly-vegan diet rich in plant-based protein, fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains, and legumes, with only 10 percent of their calories coming from fat.
- The men also were told to walk or get some form of exercise for 30 minutes six days a week, and they attended hour-long support-group sessions on a weekly basis.
- Additionally, study participants practiced an hour of stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga stretches, or progressive muscle relaxation every day, which could have helped them sleep better.
- Twice monthly sessions with study support staff helped the men stick with these lifestyle patterns for five years, though some participants were more compliant than others.
- The results also showed a clear trend: the more positive changes the participants made to their lifestyles, the greater the increase in their telomere length.
What other lifestyle changes are proven to help you with your telomeres, as a proxy for longevity, better cellular again, and disease prevention?
- Multivitamin use in women (4).
- Mastering sleep (5).
- Oh dear – ultra-endurance exercise (6), although data are mixed (7). Not surprisingly, sedentary lifestyle is associated with short telomeres (8). For now, just keep that exercise moderate (9).
- Loving kindness meditation (10). Thank goodness other relaxation techniques are helpful!
- Stop working so hard: women with grueling full time work have shorter telomeres (11).
- Change your dance with stress and bonus prize – exercise helps when you’re a stress junkie like me (12)!
- Stay off the sauce (13). Men who don’t drink have the longest telomeres. Women seem to fair better, based on the latest science, when they drink between 1 serving of alcohol per week and less than 2 servings per day (14), although data are contradictory with some studies showing women benefit from staying off the sauce (15).
Now it’s your turn.
What are the ways you turn down the dial on cellular aging?
Is there just one thing you will change based on this post to love up your telomeres?
I look forward to hearing from you!
~ Dr. Sara Gottfried MD
(2) Gottfried S, The Hormone Cure, 2013. Scribner, New York; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18391173; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11092831; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3321039/
(3) Dr. Ornish’s publications on telomeres
(4) Multivitamin use in women is linked to longer telomeres http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19279081
(6) Ultra endurance exercise helps telomeres http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23936000
(7) Helsinki Businessmen study on telomeres and exercise http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22386580
(8) Sedentary lifestyle http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18227361
(9) Women, exercise, and telomeres: even modest amounts of exercise seem to help http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3282876/
(10) Loving kindness meditation and telomeres http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23602876
(11) Women who work full time have shorter telomeres http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21540175
(12) Exercise mitigates telomere shortening when you’re under high stress http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20520771
(13) Men who don’t drink have longer telomeres http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23144701
(14) Moderating drinking linked to longer telomeres in women http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22675460
(15) Alcohol linked to shorter telomeres in women http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24085931