If you're interested in anti-aging, this is interesting stuff. It's something my own doc was all excited about a year ago when he told me about a new exciting discovery scientists had made on the cellular level.
At the time, I really didn't understand much of what he was telling me but once I started to sniff around, I found some really fascinating information. It's something called telomeres. This "new" discovery has actually been in the works since the 1980s, when scientists discovered an enzyme called telomerase that is responsible for maintaining the length and integrity of the all-important and protective ends of our chromosomes, telomeres.
Telomeres are the "caps" that keep your DNA from fraying when cells divide, kind of like the way those plastic bands at the ends of your shoelaces keep the laces intact. As we grow older, they become shorter. When telomeres are frayed, your body cannot effectively replenish itself, thus leading to more aggressive aging - and disease. And just how worthy is that? Well, worthy enough to earn the three American scientists who discovered them a Nobel Prize. And worthy enough to be reminded of what we need to do to keep our bodies at their peak performance.
Some scientists think that the understanding of telomeres and their enzyme, telomerase, is a major key to unlocking the secrets of aging and cancer.
Shortened telomeres contribute to ills like diabetes, heart disease and lower immunity. In people over 60, it's been found that those with shorter telomeres are more likely to die of heart disease and an infectious disease than those with longer, "younger" telomeres.
So, are we powerless here? Well, no. In fact, one study from the University of California, San Francisco found that men with healthy habits like regular exercise, meditation for stress and healthy diets actually increased their telomerase levels. University of Utah geneticist Richard Cawthon estimates that we could live 1,000 years if all the processes of aging and oxidative stress were eliminated. Rather than die "prematurely," people would die from things like accidents, suicides, pneumonia and other infectious diseases.