Our newest aid in growing older, better! The new discovery of Drs. Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD (Nobel prize winner), and Elissa Epel, PhD about the telomere in our cells is the most exciting thing I’ve read in years and is life changing for me.
I‘ve been speaking all about this (without really knowing what it was) for years. To me, it just made sense. I was interviewing people that were still young at 91 or older. I had no scientific facts to back me up, but I knew at 82 I felt young and interested and curious as did these people I was interviewing. I wanted to know what was keeping us that way!
As researchers, these two women doctors, found that the telemeres in our cells shrink as we grow older and the ends fray a bit. (picture shoelaces, they say) but in their studies they have found that people who have a continuing passion and who exercise and eat well as well as those who have less stress or handle their stress in a different way are able to continue life in a strong functioning manor. The good news is that our cells are listening to us. We can be in control of our telomeres. Studies show that those who have joy and can express it, those who handle stress in a combative form instead of a fearful form can control their telomeres. They can stay in a healthspan longer.
They interviewed women who were caretakers of sick children to see what that constant stress did to their telomeres. Of course it showed that their telomeres were all frayed and shorter. The good and startling news is that we can change that. They have found that resilient thinking can help enormously. Activiities that create better thought awareness include meditation and most mind body exercises says Dr. Epel. Any type of positive activity keeps you less focused on negativity. The more you are with other people and look and appreciate your surroundings, the better it is for your cells and therefore you. It goes round and round. The more mindfulness in your life, the more feelings of a life purpose will emerge. The more we engage in a life purpose the more we can believe we are invested in something bigger than our own lives and that brings us closer to tranquility while reducing our negative thoughts.
With all this, our telomeres elongate themselves. Our cells hear us. How exciting is that?
Telomeres shrink with age but with all our positive thinking, and exercise they can be helped. Consider exercise a safe bet for keeping our immune systems biologically young. That is why some people at 91 are young and vibrant and some are old. That is the data I have been looking for! The other surprising news is that to be fit means that you can walk vigorously 3x a week (or jog). That’s not a lot to ask of us.
Fitness and exercise are two different things. So even if we are naturally fit we need to be involved in a exercise program and get enough sleep to maintain our telomeres. Sleep is an important part of our fitness regime. The doctors write about a famous Whitehall study of British civil servants who slept seven hours a night, had longer telomeres than those who slept five hours. Good sleep quality is the goal, especially as we age.
Dr. Blackburn also discovered a biological indicator called Telomeres that is the enzyme that replaces telomeres. More studies are being done on this. One needs to be careful as it can create growth in cells we don’t necessarily want grown. All in all, this is an incredible discovery. It validates and brings our hopes and dreams into the world of science. It’s comforting to know there are facts backing up why and how we can live out a long and interesting life in a healthspan, if we take good care of ourselves.