Much has been written about aging and longevity. The real truth is that the key to longevity is how well we manage the aging process. There are many factors that determine how we age: genetics, epigenetics, ( turning on or off our genes), internal and external environmental factors such as the air we breathe and the toxins we are exposed to, the food we eat, the amount and quality of physical activity and sleep we get and the thoughts and beliefs we all have, which directly and indirectly impact our immune, hormonal, digestive, neurological, digestive, and cardiovascular health. Recent research indicates that our longevity is in fact 90% controlled by non-genetic factors. With that in mind, it is vital to understand that we do ultimately control our own destiny.
We now have come to the understanding that specific DNA biomarkers known as telomeres might hold the key to understanding and measuring life expectancy. Telomeres are the end sequence of chromosomes that house our DNA. DNA molecules are comprised of the biological instructions for all human development and function. The telomere’s job is to protect the threadlike structure of the chromosomes from unraveling.
Research has proven that oxidative stress ( harmful reactive oxygen or free-radicals) and chronic inflammation decrease the strength and protectiveness of telomeres. Free radical activity has been proven to be highly correlated to aging and age-related diseases. Crous-Bou ( 2014) points out that telomere length is a bio-marker for aging – “shorter telomeres are associated with a shorter life expectancy and increased susceptibility to chronic diseases.
The researchers conclude that our dietary patterns and lifestyle decisions impact telomere length and integrity. They believe that a cross between the Paleo and Mediterranean diets ( removal of refined sugars and processed foods) has a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect and thus correlate to longer telomere length. It is also noted that even in healthy people, telomeres shorten with age. The anti-aging benefits ( as illustrated by the telomere length) may directly result from the diet’s ability to overcome oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Nutrient-rich foods can improve the metabolic pathways that directly help to prevent or slow down heart disease, stroke, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance.
There also seems to be a very strong correlation between physical fitness and telomere length, as measured by maximal aerobic capacity. The researchers concluded that the data indicated a clear connection between telomere length and aerobic capacity. Additionally, aerobic exercises activates specific anti-inflammatory processes which help to prevent or inhibit telomere shortening.
Getting active and consuming a healthy diet directly impacts our quality of life and longevity. But it must start with the understanding and realization that we are in fact in control of our longevity. We can turn on or turn off our genes, we can alter our biological instructions and thus take an active role in reshaping our health and well being.