Keys to Longevity and Health
Sep 05, 2016 08:15AM
By James E. Lemire
People often think that advances in medicine have to be a new drug, a new laser or a surgical intervention to be powerful—something really high-tech and expensive. They often have a hard time believing that the simple choices that we make in our lives each day—what we eat, how we respond to stress, whether or not we smoke, how much we exercise and the quality of our relationships—can make such a powerful difference in our health, well-being and survival, but they often do. In many cases, these improvements occur faster than people once believed possible.
Recent studies show that changes in diet, exercise, stress management and positive relationships may result in longer telomeres, the tips of chromosomes that affect aging. In humans, telomere shortening is a potential prognostic marker for disease risk and progression and for premature death. Cellular ageing is determined by diminished telomeres. Bad things happen when telomeres get short. The body’s cells are unable to divide (reproduce) and simply die. Eventually, this instability leads to tissue breakdown, potentially leading to premature aging and ageing-related diseases such as cancer, stroke, vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, stress-related illness, cardiovascular disease, obesity, osteoporosis and diabetes.
We can think of the tips of the telomeres as the aglets at ends of shoelaces that prevent them from unraveling over time. Without them, the part of the genes that are critical for life would become shorter every time a cell divides. For getting new skin to grow, they are essential. The same can be said for blood, bone and other cells. Lifestyle changes have the potential to reverse aging on a cellular level.
“Our genes and our telomeres are not necessarily our fate,” writes author Dean Ornish, M.D., founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. When we make comprehensive lifestyle changes, most people find that they feel much better quickly, and that reframes the reason for changing from fear of dying to joy of living.
Studies have found that stress and obesity strongly correlated with shorter telomere length. Also negatively affected telomere length. By contrast, telomere length was positively associated with increased physical activity in leisure time.
James E. Lemire, M.D., is the owner of Lemire Clinic. For more information, visit LemireClinic.com.