Having the Edge on Longevity: Telomeres (Part 1)
Have you ever heard of the term telomeres? It sounds like a futuristic mechanical part of a robot if you ask me. However, it is much better than that! A telomere is a specific set of proteins located at the end of our DNA chromosomes that protect our genetic material from deteriorating. A telomere is a protective barrier at the end of our genes that can become shorter with time, based on unhealthy behaviors. "One way to describe telomeres is to compare them to aglets, the plastic cap at the ends of shoelaces. Just as aglets prevent shoelaces from falling apart at the end, telomeres keep the ends of DNA from fraying" (The Immortality Edge, Dr. Michael Fossel, Great Blackburn, Dr. Dave Woynarowski). The sad truth is that with the shortening of our telomeres, premature, advanced aging occurs. Cells will die when telomeres become too short and damaged. The good news is, we have solid research on ways to lengthen our telomeres, which in turn, supports a healthy, less hasty aging process! One way is through the enzyme telomerase, which can cause the telomeres to lengthen and support cell life! How do we do this? Are there secrets to extending our lives? Can we truly lengthen our days here on earth?
There is much to share about the world of telomeres, but for now, in Part 1 of this post, let's look at the aging factors that cause telomeres to shorten:
I think most of us know the blatant lifestyle that causes aging to increase, such as smoking, alcohol/drug use, obesity, sedentary, poor nutrition, and high-stress lifestyle. But, let's view these factors from a more science-based focus...
Oxidation: This occurs from free radical damage. Picture the rusting of your body (internally). It's not pretty. Free radicals are high energy molecule sthat prowls our body's cells, trying to steal our electrons and thereby causing oxidation (oxidative stress). I often think of them as the pinball in a pinball machine, pining from wall to wall with loads of speed, hitting every cell it can!
Inflammation: I am not just talking about the aches and swelling in your joints. Chronic inflammation can show up anywhere in the body, creating conditions such as heart disease and Alzheimer's. Inflammation in the arterial vessels can cause plaque/cholesterol deposits, and therefore increase risks of heart attack or stroke. Inflammation from amyloids (toxic waste products) can affect the function of the brain, damaging telomeres that assist in cognitive function, eventually contributing to the onset of dementia and other cognitive realted conditions.
Glycation: When we consume too much refined sugars/carbohydrates, the body goes into a process of glycation. Sugar molecules attach themselves to fats and proteins, cross-linking, resulting in cell damage, including abnormal clumping of blood platelets. This is an alarming process since it can cause blood vessels to narrow, increasing the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular events.
High Homocysteine: Homocysteine is an inflammatory compound caused by abnormal protein metabolism. Chronic homocysteine release can accumulate to toxic levels in the body, once again, harming the lining of our arteries, causing telomeres to shorten, and premature aging.
In part 2 of this post, I will share what we can do about these aging factors, and how to protect our telomeres from being shortened. In fact, our goal is to lengthen our telomeres!
See you in the next post!