It’s not how old you are but how you are old indeed?
We commonly define age by counting years since birth. That is chronological age, which might not represent how well we are aging, what our longevity might be, and may not indicate how progressively we are developing some chronic conditions.
Two individuals born in the same year can have different risks for developing age-related diseases because they are aging at a different speed, even though they are the same chronological age.
Furthermore, premature aging is undeniably a real thing. What worries us as an external feature ( e.g., sagging skin at the age of 30, stubborn belly fat at the age of 35, wrinkles at age 28, melasma at 24, hyperpigmented armpits at 42) can be a true sign of an internal metabolic condition that prematurely aging us. Furthermore, although perceived as aesthetic concern, it is more an indication of the underlying medical condition.
What we need to understand is that these underlying medical conditions have three things in common:
- They are aging all of us irrespectively of our chronological age.
- An unhealthy lifestyle affects our genes and accelerates premature aging.
- Once we develop these pro-aging conditions, they are not self-limiting; they will keep aging us until we find and address the cause.
This understanding raises the awareness that finding a biological age- the exact age in each individual would help achieve compliance in applying a healthy lifestyle in stopping aging. However, more importantly, it can reverse unhealthy conditions causing this aging. Who would not be concerned to find out that that is ten years older?
Telomere’s biology theory (Nobel Prize winner in 2009) explains why some people live shorter and age in an unhealthy way. Telomeres are proteins found at the end of our chromosomes; they protect DNA’s structure and function. Each time our cell divides, Telomeres become shorter until one of them becomes critically short that the cell either stops functioning or properly dies. Shorter Telomeres are associated with poorer health and greater biological age. That is the base of the theory of aging and explains a shorter life span and unhealthy aging.
Although Telomeres naturally shorten during an individual’s life (genetically determined), numerous studies have shown that this process can be emphasized by environmental factors, physical and emotional stress.
Our higher biological age is not really about a few extra wrinkles and sagging skin, but it is more about dangerous diseases that can affect our longevity. A recent prospective population-based study found that shorter Telomeres’ length was associated with higher cancer incidence and higher cancer mortality.
The choice of an unhealthy lifestyle can influence Telomere shortening. For example, smoking, an unhealthy diet with high saturated fat, alcohol intake, or obesity might shorten Telomere by provoking inflammation and oxidative stress in our bodies. Nutritional deficiencies are also significant. Vitamins B deficiencies were associated with accelerated shortening of Telomeres and increased risk of age-related degenerative diseases. Exposure to environmental and other toxins, lack of exercise, inadequate amount of sleep are some of the well-established factors that accelerate Telomeres shortening and biological aging. Furthermore, patients with depressive disorders have shorter Telomeres than healthy individuals, which is found even in all
lymphocyte subpopulations of the adaptive immune system.
One recent study showed that mothers taking care of their chronically ill children have substantially accelerated telomerase shortening, concluded how perceived psychological stress can cause premature aging. Even stress encountered during childhood (as seen in physically abused children) can accelerate telomerase shortening later in life. Interestingly, shorter telomeres are also associated with cognitive impairment in the elderly, which can be pretty debilitating.
How can we stop premature aging?
Ashkenazy centenarians have been using the Astragalus plant for centuries containing Telomerase enzyme plant that increases Telomeres’ lengthening, which has been commercialized as a supplement.
Nevertheless, the most important things are modifiable lifestyle factors that, once applied daily, have a significant effect on decreasing the shortening of Telomeres, and it can slow down the pace of aging.
These are certain life habits (e.g., a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory foods), physical activity, exercise, fitness, environmental toxins removal, smoking cessation, and stop drinking alcohol. Managing stress and getting more sleep are also essential aspects of healthy aging. One interesting study showed that the group of people using meditation to reduce stress has significant improvement in telomeres length in immune cells.
We can give more specific lifestyle changes to each patient after integrative medical consultation has been done where all underlying causes will be investigated. That often includes finding and treating the cause of inflammation and oxidative stress that always perpetuate Telomeres shortening.
Additionally, we can add to it personalized supplements for healthy aging (e.g. resveratrol, nicotinamide riboside), potent antioxidants as PQQ, SOD, Coenzyme Q10, and additional vitamins to help regulate metabolism, promote cellular energy production, and support methylation and cellular health.
In conclusion, shortening of Telomeres is :
- Considered a primary molecular cause of aging
- Proposed to be a biomarker of biological aging
- Biomarker for potential prognostic value for many different age-associated diseases, including cardiovascular diseases
- Biomarker of longevity
Scientists have been researching and gathering information about Telomeres’ length as a biomarker for biological aging for years, but now integrative medical doctors can use a test (available in SA) in everyday practice as an additional tool not only to precisely give you exact biological age but to help to tailor the interventions to attenuate medical conditions that are pro-aging .
If the biological age is less or equal to chronological age means that we are aging well, that our lifestyle is ideally taking care of our Telomeres. But our biological age is much higher we can take an action immediately to stop aging under the supervision of integrative medicine physicians.
For more information contact www.8th sense.co.za
References available from A2 editor