Telomeres are a compound structure at the end of a chromosome. Their job is to prevent the ends of the chromosome from fraying or sticking to each other. They are similar to the plastic tips at the end of a shoelace. Telomeres play an important role in making sure the DNA is copied correctly when cells divide. Each cell has a finite amount of times with which it can divide. The length of the telomeres can help determine if the cell has the ability to continue dividing. Once the telomere has reached a certain shortened length, the cell will no longer be able to divide and the disease state will set in.
Our genes affect our telomeres, both in length and how quickly they will dwindle down. Through new research in epigenetics, scientists have discovered that humans posses the ability to “turn on” or turn off” a certain set of genes. In other words, we are able to express certain genes to be healthier. Taking this one step further, there are things you can do which will help determine how long or short your telomeres will be.
The longer the telomere, the more cell division possible, and the healthier the cell. The length of these telomeres are co-managed by an enzyme called telomerase. Telomerase adds nucleotides to the end of telomeres. A little of this lengthening can be beneficial to a cell, but too much can lead to cancerous cells. It is important to have the right amount of telomerase to maximize the livelihood of a cell.
Ways to Improve Telomeres
Feeling threatened causes telomeres to shorten. Reframing your view of the situation to a more positive tone can help prevent this shortening.
Meditation helps reduce stress, which in turn can increase telomerase to protect the shortening of the telomere.
Cardiovascular exercise is wonderful at protecting our cells.
Avoid processed meats like hot dogs and cold cuts.
Children who are exposed several adverse life events will have shorter telomeres. Learning coping mechanisms can reduce stress and slow down the shortening of the telomere.
Your body will constantly struggle between a healthy and a disease state. In order to maximize life potential and be able to function optimally as we age, I highly recommend taking a look at your telomeres and make sure they stay as long as possible.
Dr Spencer Charlet