Telomeres: The Tape Measure for Aging

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Your telomeres are a reflection of your life decisions, a way to measure how well you are aging.

In 1961, a biologist named Leonard Haflick discovered how the human body ages.  Most of our cells make copies of themselves over and over again until they die.  This is called cellular senescence.  Here are a few important facts about cell divisions:

  • Some cells can divide quickly and as often as necessary.  
  • Some cells have a maximum limit of cellular divisions of approximately 50.
  • Most cells have less potential divisions than 50.

Taken together, Haflick found that the average person had enough cellular divisions to last approximately 120 years.  This is called the Haflick affect.  Cells all contain DNA material called chromosomes, which is the genetic material that determines things like hair or eye color, as well as our predisposition to disease, which has been passed down to us over millennia.  These chromosomes have tips on them like shoe lace tips. And with each cellular division, these chromosomes, and their tips, get shorter.  These tips are called telomeres.  Here is what we know so far about telomeres:

  • All cells do not experience telomere shortening at the same pace.  Any organ or system can deteriorate more quickly if we don’t maintain equally good health for all cells.  
  • We can slow cellular aging and even reverse it slightly in some cases.  However, we are only as healthy as our least healthy cells.

What can influence health and aging?

Below is a partial list of the known factors that can improve cellular health and keep telomeres from becoming shorter:

  • Some people are born with longer telomeres.
  • Threatening or negative situations shorten telomeres.
  • Too little or too much exercise can shorten telomeres.
  • Eat whole organic foods, like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and healthy oils from omega fish, avocados and coconuts to help keep telomeres longer.
  • Processed food shortens telomeres, as does fried foods, red meat, dairy, sugar and poorly digested food.
  • Not enough sleep shortens telomeres.
  • Too much stress shortens telomeres.
  • Good relationships can lengthen telomeres.
  • A strong purpose in life can lengthen telomeres.
  • Exposure to toxins in air, water or food shortens telomeres.

If this list sounds familiar, that’s because you have probably seen similar lists hundreds of times.  What you may not have realized is that each negative factor shortens your telomeres, and each positive factor slows telomere decline, or can even extend or lengthen some telomeres.

What can I do to lengthen my telomeres?

First, it is important to remember that telomeres are just a reflection of your life decisions, a way to measure how well you are aging.  More importantly, telomeres can indicate how healthy you will be in the last years of your life.  In other words, telomeres are a reflection of the decisions we make, not the causes.  Here are some causal factors that can impact our health:

  • Genetic mutations can cause illnesses, but remember most of these mutations are predispositions and not absolutely certain.
  • Biochemical differences are different than genetic mutations.  Some people simply need more enzymes, minerals or vitamins then other people do.  Dr. Roger Williams explains this in his book, Biochemical individuality.
  • Lifestyle decisions involving tobacco, alcohol and being overweight can result in many serious illnesses.
  • Being overly reliant on conventional medicine can also be dangerous to your health.  Prescription medication side effects and some unnecessary tests or surgeries can be life threatening. Gary Null illustrates this in his book, Death By Medicine.
  • Previously mentioned factors, such as diet, exercise, stress, sleep and toxins all play a role in how healthy we are throughout our life. 

Over fifty years ago only 10% of the adult population was chronically ill.  Now that figure exceeds 60%.  The generation born after the year 2000 will be the first generation in the history of mankind to not live as long a life as their parents. And, by the year 2065, healthcare could consume over 100% of the GNP of the United States.  This country’s collective telomere length is going down at the exact same rate as the growth of chronic disease and the cost of healthcare is going up. (The Beginning of the End of the War on Medicine, GreenMedInfo, Dec. 7, 2016).

Your personal role

If you wait for your doctor, your employer or your government to address this problem, I wish you well.  If you want to take matters into your own hands, here are some suggestions:

  1. Get your telomeres tested.  Use a blood test or our telomere assessment tool attached to this article.  
     
  2. Get your genes tested, if you can afford it.  Or take a good look at your family history and pay attention to it. (23 and me- is a good test to start with).
     
  3. Take a good look at what you eat.  Ignore the flawed USDA Food Pyramid and opt for the Harvard or Mediterranean Food Pyramids.
     
  4. Find some exercises that you really like and do them every day for at least one hour.  You have the time if you just stop doing a few less important things.
     
  5. Use stress management tools, like meditation, yoga or deep breathing, at least twice a day for 20 minutes each time.
     
  6. Stop tobacco use.  Read The Healthy Smoker by Charles Bens, Ph.D.
     
  7. Stop consuming too much alcohol.  Read Seven Weeks to Sobriety by Joan Mathers Larson, Ph.D.
     
  8. Find a doctor who practices Holistic or Functional Medicine and read an article entitled, The Beginning of the End of the War on Medicine, by Dr. Bens.

Nutritional Supplements For Longer Telomeres

 Here are the nutritional supplements that have been proven to protect, and in some cases, even lengthen telomeres. These should be consumed along with the very best diet you can possibly eat.

Astaxanthin – Very strong antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory benefits and protects against DNA damage.  Crosses the blood brain and the retinal barriers to protect the brain and the eyes.

Vitamin B Complex – Especially vitamin B6, B12 and folate, which are methylators important for making hormones and neurotransmitters, as well as DNA molecules.

Vitamin C – A strong antioxidant that can reduce telomere shortening by up to 62%.  Strong cardiovascular protection and able to rescue aging cells from premature death.

Vitamin E – A strong antioxidant with the ability to delay telomere shortening, especially by increasing the natural production of telomeres (telomere lengthening enzyme telomerase).

Multiple Vitamin and Mineral - Provides the nutritional base for proper absorption due to the inclusion of micronutrients.  However, a multiple vitamin and mineral does not have sufficient dosage for other key nutrients mentioned here.

Omega 3 oils – Has very high anti-inflammatory properties and softens the cells membranes to facilitate nutrient intake and waste removal.

Curcumin – Boosts immunity and has anti-inflammatory properties.  Has very effective anti cancer properties.

Zinc – A strong antioxidant; especially good for throat and stomach cell protection. 

Co-enzyme-Q10 – Recycles other antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E.  Protects the cells DNA and is especially protective of organs with high levels of mitochondria, such as the heart, brain, liver and kidney.

Probiotics – Promotes healthy intestinal flora, which is where many immune system nutrients are made.  Helps the body eliminate harmful external agents, such as negative bacteria, viruses and other microbes. 

Magnesium – This mineral is vital to the production of energy inside the cell.  It plays a key role in DNA replication and repair, as well as RNA synthesis.  Deficiency causes genome instability and induces chromosome abnormalities.

Conclusion

Most people are so busy with their hectic lives that they forget about what could happen to them during the end of their life.  Who plans to be in a hospital or a nursing home?  No one.  And yet, these are the two fastest growing businesses in our economy after pharmaceutical sales.  Review any list of the most popular chronic illnesses.  Which chronic disease do you want to avoid, and, how do you plan to do that?  If you have no plan, then your genes, telomeres and lifestyle will decide for you.

Nutritional Supplements Importance

 

 

 

0

1

2

3

4

 

 

Dosage

Never

Seldom

Sometimes

Often

Always

  1. Astaxanthin

4 mg

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Vitamin B Complex

100 complex

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Vitamin C

2000 mg

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Co-enzyme Q10

100 mg

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Curcumin

500 mg / PC 95

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Vitamin D3

2000 iu – 4000 iu

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Vitamin E

400 mg mixed tocopherols

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Magnesium

400 mg / 1000 mg

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Multiple

High quality

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Omega 3

1250 – 2500 mg

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Probiotics

10 billion bacteria

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Zinc

30 mg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Score: ____________

 

 

0 – 9

10 - 19

20 – 25

Your Telomere Score Card (Use Appendix A)

 

Low

Medium

High

  1. Thinking about aging

 

 

 

  1. Responses to challenges

 

 

 

  1. Planning for calmness

 

 

 

  1. Support your life

 

 

 

  1. Toxins in your life

 

 

 

  1. Nutritionally aware

 

 

 

  1. Exercise factors

 

 

 

  1. Pain and inflammation influences

 

 

 

  1. Brain as the control center

 

 

 

  1. Health discussions

 

 

 

  1. Immune system strength

 

 

 

 

 

0 - 18

19 - 35

36 – 48

 

Low

Medium

High

  1. Nutritional supplements importance

 

 

 

In which three categories do you need the most improvement?

1.

2.

3.

Appendix A: Telomere Assessment Survey

1. Thinking About Aging- (Score each question 1 to 5)

  1. How optimistic are you about the prospects of aging?
  2. Have you planned well for aging, and is your plan working?
  3. How strong is your purpose for living a longer and healthy life?
  4. Do you have strong and positive feelings about the past, the present and the future?
  5. Do you still search for adventure, challenges and opportunities to grow?

Score: __________ (Highest possible score=25)

2. Responses to Challenges (Score each question 1 to 5)

  1. When bad things happen, do you quickly turn it into an opportunity to improve?
  2. Do you try to avoid people who consistently are negative, pessimistic and down?
  3. For those people who have health challenges, that you cannot avoid, do you try to stay positive and help them as much as possible?
  4. Are you well organized and able to handle multiple tasks efficiently and effectively?
  5. Do people seek you out for advice because you have been proven to be knowledgeable and trustworthy?

    Score: __________ (Highest possible score=25)

3. Planning for Calmness (Score each question 1 to 5)

  1. Have you experienced emotional challenges in others, and decided you would not be the same?
  2. Have you studied about emotional challenges, such as depression, stress and anxiety, and developed some strategies to avoid these emotions?
  3. If you have experienced emotional challenges, do you try to find natural methods to resolve them instead of resorting to stimulants or prescription meds?
  4. Do you follow a lifestyle that promotes calmness, such as good diet, exercise, sound sleep, play and relaxation activities? (Social, spiritual, etc.)
  5. Do you regularly practice calming activities, such as yoga, meditation or tai chi?

    Score: _________ (Highest possible score=25) 

4. Support in Your Life (Score each question 1 to 5)

  1. Do you receive positive support from the most important person in your life?
  2. Do you get enough regular positive support from close family members and friends? 
  3. Do you have a healthy relationship with people at work, or who interact with you regularly?
  4. Do you have people in your life, who you can talk to, with professional expertise in how to examine difficult situations and help you find good solutions?
  5. Do you have special hobbies or activities that can provide some quick outlet or release for stress in your life?  (i.e. music, a pet, sports, movies, etc.)

Score: _________ (Highest possible score=25)  

5. Toxins in Your Life (Score each question 1 to 5)

  1. Do you make a concerted effort to reduce toxic exposure in your home and place of work? 
  2. Do you research the toxin levels in your food and opt for organic foods as much as you can?
  3. Do you understand the toxic exposures in meat, dairy and tap water (fluoride/chlorine), and take steps to significantly avoid these items?
  4. Do you understand the potential toxins in both inside and outside air, and take measures to avoid them and clean the air you can control?
  5. Do you understand how to detoxify your body with saunas, foods, supplements, sweating exercise and products, such as chlorella, Spirulina and silica?  Do you measure your toxic levels and reduce your toxins as much as possible?

Score: _________ (Highest possible score=25)

6. Nutritionally Aware (Score each question 1 to 5)

  1. Whole foods are healthier than processed foods most of the time.  Is your diet based at least 90% on whole foods?
  2. Vegetables are crucial to good health.  Do you consume at least 6-7 helpings of vegetables every day?
  3. Fruit is healthy, too, but only 2 helpings per day are needed.  Do you seriously avoid sugar of all types, but especially sodas, baked goods, candy, fruit juices and too much fruit?
  4. Do you avoid saturated fats, such as meat and dairy, while consuming healthy fats, such as omega 3 fish oils, coconut oil, avocado oil and olive oil?
  5. Do you understand that it is virtually impossible to get all of the nutrients you need from food alone?  And, have you developed a personal strategy focusing on a variety of scientifically proven nutritional supplements?

    Score: ________ (Highest possible score=25

7. ​​Exercise Factors (Score each question 1 to 5)

  1. Regular moderate exercise is very healthy.  Do you exercise at least one hour daily, five times a week where your lungs, heart and muscles get a good workout without over stressing your body?
  2. Does your exercise incorporate aerobic, strength and flexibility with an emphasis on developing a strong core?  (Stomach and trunk)
  3. Do you understand that exercise increases the development of free radicals in your cells and ensure that you consume higher levels of antioxidants, such as vitamin C before, during and after exercise?
  4. Do you understand that exercise stresses the body, and that cells need to be repaired afterwards?  A protein shake within 30 minutes of exercising is usually necessary.  Do you undertake this repair function?
  5. The body wants and needs variety in the exercise it gets.  Do you utilize the principles of cross training, so that the body is challenged and not allowed to be too focused on regular patterns?

Score: ________ (Highest possible score=25)

8. Pain and Inflammation Influences (Score each question 1 to 5)

  1. Inflammation is a precursor to most diseases.  Do you measure your inflammation level with tests, such as C-reactive protein (blood), homocysteine (blood) and thermography (infra-red heat)?
  2. When you experience pain, do you usually utilize the most natural methods of treating it, instead of over the counter or prescription medications?
  3. Being overweight can significantly increase inflammation in your body.  Do you maintain a healthy weight without resorting to fad dieting or excessive exercising? BMI less than 25. (BMI = weight in lbs. X 703 divided by height in inches). 
  4. Inflammation is also caused by lifestyle factors, such as too much alcohol, too much caffeine, too much sugar or using tobacco.  Do you control these factors well?
  5. Pain and inflammation can also be controlled by creating balance in your life.  Do you consciously manage your work, play, spiritual and social activities to create the balance you need?

Score: ________ (Highest possible score=25)

9. Brain as the Control Center (Score each question 1 to5)

  1. What we think controls our health in many ways.  We all have an inner voice.  Have you managed to create an inner voice that is calm, organized, interested, reflective, giving and forgiving?  (Minimal turmoil) 
  2. Do you take special steps to feed your brain properly?  That includes reading about nutrition for the brain and consuming the foods and supplements that will keep it healthy? (Omega 3 fats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds). 
  3. Your brain needs exercise.  Do you challenge it with new activities, such as music, art, languages, games and other brain activities?
  4. The brain needs sufficient sleep and rest.  Do you ensure that you get 7-9 hours of sound sleep every night and awake refreshed and balanced in your mind and body?
  5. The brain can be threatened by too much radiation (cell phones, computers, X-rays, flying, etc.), too much noise and not enough sunlight.  Are you careful to avoid assaults on the brain and give it the things that it needs?

Score: ________ (Highest possible score=25)

10.  Health Discussions (Score each question 1 to 5)

  1. Having a healthy attitude about health and medicine can instill confidence in most people.  Self-help, prevention and holistic practitioners are important.  Do you research and guide your own health decision making as opposed to depending too much on conventional doctors?
  2. Regular testing and evaluations are important tools for promoting good health.  Do you go beyond conventional strategies and use tests and evaluations, such as vitamin D levels, glucose tolerance tests, food sensitivity tests (ALCAT), thermography and Harvard Food Pyramid evaluation?
  3. Have you read about aging and telomeres in order to understand changes in your body and brain, as well as proven strategies for preventing and minimizing these changes?  (i.e. enzymes, stomach acid, intestinal bacteria and natural antioxidant levels decline with age, along with other biochemicals).  I have researched these changes, and am addressing them.
  4. Do you have reliable sources for information on how to prevent and reverse illness and use them on a regular basis to address any concerns I might have.  (i.e. Dr. Mercola, Life Extension Magazine, Green Med Info., Dr. Pizzorno, Dr. Michael Murray, Dr. Mark Hyman).
  1. I am able to maintain a healthy balance between being a hypochondriac and not obsessing over health challenges I might experience.

Score: ________ (Highest possible score=25)

11. Immune System Strength (Score each question 1 to 5)

  1. Over the past ten years, have you been able to avoid colds, flus and other infections nearly all of the time?
  2. When you do experience an infectious illness, are you able to limit its time and impact on you with natural solutions?
  3. Do you support your immune system with foods and supplements designed to reduce toxin and germ exposure?  (i.e. garlic, oregano, olive leaf, vitamin C, etc.)
  4. Have you been able to avoid immune compromising diseases, such as cancer, intestinal disorders and lung disease?
  5. Is there a history of strong immune systems in your family?

Score: ________ (Highest possible score=25)

Prepared by: Charles K. Bens, Ph.D. – Healthy at Work, Sarasota, Florida

Copyright May 2017

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.
Sayer Ji
Founder of GreenMedInfo.com

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