Why do people age differently? Why are some people looking old before their time? Why do some people get serious health problems starting at age 50 and others live healthy into their 80s?
It all has to do with our telomeres. Telomeres are protective tips at the end of our chromosomes. They get shorter during lifespan and eventually cannot protect chromosomes properly anymore which leads to diseases and ageing.
But we can do something about the condition of our telomeres. We can influence how quickly we age and how healthy we are when being old.
What we can do? That is written down in the book “The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer”, by Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD and Elissa Epel, PhD. Elizabeth received a Nobel Prize for the discovery of telomerase and telomeres' role in the aging process.
Her and Elissa's book is a recipe for a long and healthy life.
I have already posted some insights from this book in my post about the health of highly sensitive children.
And here is now the full book summary.
The book’s biggest take away is that we can influence our lifespan with lifestyle choices. Certain lifestyle choices repair and lengthen our telomeres and hence lengten our lifespan.
None of what the book covers is actually new, we all know that stress and unhealthy food is not good for us. But the book backs up living advice with clinical studies and research. It proves that it really makes a difference what we eat, how long we sleep and if we exercise or not.
It also proves that restorative activities like meditation and yoga support your long term health.
In short - the 3 main pillars that influence our telomeres for a healthier and longer life
1. Mind your telomeres:
Persistence stress and how we react to stress is poison for our telomeres. It’s vital that we try to avoid intense stress and change how we react to stressful situations.
Evaluate sources of intense stress.
Examine your thinking. Are you pessimistic, do you ruminate? Try to be more in the present. Have self compassion and seek your purpose in life.
Take up a restorative activity like Qi Gong, Do-In yoga, meditation or mindfulness. Those mind-body techniques have been proven to lengthen telomeres.
2. Maintain your telomeres:
Be active and exercise.
Sleep, sleep, sleep. Best more than 7 hours a day.
Eat a Mediterranean diet of whole foods, vegetables and fruits, rich in omega-3s. Try to avoid refined sugar, red meats and processed meats.
3. Connect your telomeres:
What I found most surprising from the book is that the neighbourhood, we live in, has a profound impact on our health. We need a safe and clean environment to thrive.
Cultivate a few good friends.
Spend time in nature.
Cultivate your neighbourhood so people know and trust each other.
Protect children from violence and other trauma that damage telomeres.
Clean up local and global toxins.
That's a really short summary of what we can do to influence our DNA. Check out the book for more insights on telomere health.