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What are telomeres and why are they important?
Telomeres are stretches of DNA at the end of chromosomes that protect the rest of the chromosome. These little bits of DNA are critical to healthy cell function and have been likened to the plastic tips on shoelaces because they prevent the chromosome from “fraying”.
How are telomeres linked to ageing?
Telomeres become progressively shorter each time cells divide. When they get too short, cells can no longer divide. This can result in the development of the various conditions associated with old age.
Which lifestyle factors are linked to the shortening of telomeres?
Poor nutrition, physical inactivity, hormonal decline and exposure to air pollution all contribute to accelerated telomere shortening.
What are some of the new findings related to the study of telomeres and ageing?
Studies indicate that there are ways to activate telomerase – an enzyme that can add DNA repeats to chromosomes, potentially slowing, stopping or reversing the telomere shortening that occurs as we age. One way to increase telomerase is by living healthily. A Lancet Oncology study of 30 men found that diet improvements, moderate exercise and stress control raised telomerase levels.
Four things you can do to keep your telomeres in good nick.
Here’s Dr Haffejie’s advice for putting a stop to rapidly shortening telomeres:
• Lower your homocysteine levels.
In addition to threatening your heart health, high levels of this amino acid triple the speed at which your telomeres shorten.
• Take vitamin C.
Recent studies show that this antioxidant can slow telomere shortening by over 50%.
• Eat more brightly coloured vegetables.
It’s been found that people who eat more vegetables have significantly longer telomeres. And vegetables with the most beta carotene (the orange ones) have the biggest benefit. Spirulina and chlorella are two other super-nutritious foods that help preserve telomere length
• Do high-intensity exercise.
A new study of 2 401 twins showed that physical activity was related to telomere length. The researchers found that people who exercised vigorously for a duration that wasn’t too long or too short had much longer telomeres than those of people who didn’t exercise or who exercised for too long.