We all want to stay young forever, right? So we keep searching for that magic anti-aging pill, potion, or serum. We’ll try anything, from drinking urine to injecting ourselves with sheep placenta.
But what if I told you that you don’t need to keep searching for a miracle—because the biggest secret to staying young is already inside you?
Today, I want to share the latest scientific discoveries about the changes that happen in our cells as we age—as well as the growing evidence that we can slow the aging of our cells, adding years to our life. It all comes down to telomeres.
First, a Bit About Your Cells
Your cells contain your genes in the form of chromosomes, which contain your DNA. This DNA consists of units called bases. At the end of each chromosome is a cap called a telomere.
To understand the job of telomeres, think of the plastic caps on the ends of shoelaces. Without those caps, your shoelaces would unravel—and without telomeres, that’s essentially what happens to your DNA.
So if you have telomeres to protect your DNA, what’s the problem? Well, like all good things, telomeres don’t last. The somatic cells that make up your organs, skin, bones, blood, and connective tissue divide—a lot. Typically, they do this 50 to 70 times per cell. And with each division, the telomere shortens, until eventually the cell dies.
Here’s a snapshot of what happens over time. The telomeres in the white blood cells of newborn babies contain 8,000 base pairs. In adults, that number drops to about 3,000—and in seniors it can get down to just 1,500. And at some point, if nothing else gets to us first, our telomeres shorten to the point where we die of old age.
Now, here’s where the story gets interesting… so stay with me.
Studies show that telomere length varies from person to person, and people with longer telomeres live an average of five years longer than those with shorter ones. They also have lower rates of age-related illnesses including, strokes, dementia, heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
Why is this fabulous news? Because scientists are closing in on ways to prevent telomere shortening. And in the meantime, there are concrete steps you can take right now to protect these life-saving DNA caps. Better yet, these are the same steps that will keep you feeling energetic, sexy, and strong for your entire life.
First, the Exciting Science
Scientists know that reproductive cells (sperm and eggs) don’t age and experience telomere shortening. That’s because these cells have a protective enzyme called telomerase. Somatic cells have the gene to produce this enzyme too, but they don’t do it.
However, researchers are exploring whether it’s possible to get somatic genes to produce telomerase and thus stop the shortening of telomeres. In effect, this might make cells immortal and end the aging process.
Of course, there may be a catch. In theory, this could create other problems such as the risk of immortalizing cancer cells. But so far, researchers have successfully used telomerase to get human cells to divide way beyond the usual limit, and to do it without becoming cancerous. So it looks like science is on to something, and effective anti-aging drugs might become a reality within the next decade or two.
But We Don’t Have to Wait!
If you’re like me, you don’t want to look and feel two decades older by the time there’s a miraculous treatment for aging. And we’ve all heard about future miracles that never arrived. After all, we were supposed to have flying cars by now, right?
I hear you. And luckily, there’s no reason to wait! That’s because research is beginning to show that we actually have the power to lengthen our telomeres.
By doing the things we already know are good for us in every other way:
- Eating a diet of whole, “clean” foods—along with nutrients like turmeric and fish oil, which have telomere-protecting properties.
- Exercising every day—and sitting as little as possible.
- Managing stress through yoga-based stretching or meditation.
- Having a strong network of people who care about us.
Now, let this sink in for a minute: Science is actually proving that simply eating well, exercising, dialing down stress, and hanging out with supportive “peeps” can make us younger on a cellular level. How cool is that?
And here’s the flip side of the story. We already know that oxidative stress—damage to our DNA that contributes to shortening our lives—can stem from obesity, not getting enough exercise, stress, smoking, and drinking too much alcohol. These things accelerate telomere shortening.
So it just makes sense to let go of what we know contributes to aging and illness and embrace what cutting-edge science shows will keep us young.
Don’t you love it when age-old wisdom turns out to be miraculous? And if you read my columns regularly, you know that the steps for protecting your telomeres are exactly the same steps that empower you to feel young and energetic—and look “hot”—every day of your life.
So take good care of those telomeres. If you do, you won’t just live longer; you’ll have a blast during those extra years.
Keep thinking big and living bold!