Telomeres are the end caps on your chromosomes that protect the genetic material during cell division, ensuring a faithful replication. Each time the cell divides, the telomere shortens until it reaches a critical lenth signaling cell sensence or cell death. Recently, this years Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to three researchers that spent the last 20 years detailing the role and function of telomeres in aging and potentially in future cancer treatments. Shorter telomeres imply shorter life span for cells.
Telomeres are longer in your youth and shorter as we age. Shortened telomeres have also been found in people with chonic or inflammatory diseases compared to their same aged peers. It appears that inflammation and oxidative stress can cause faster or premature telomere shortening. Shorter telomeres have been associated with metabolic abnormalities, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, demetia and cancers.
Most cancer cells have much shorter telomeres than normal cells of the same individual. Some cancer cell have longer telomeres than normal cells, but in both cases there is a heightened actitivity of the enzyme Telemorase; responsible for producing the telomere. It is postulated that this heightened enzyme activity is what confers near immortality to cancer cells and allows them to continue to divide uncontrollably. A study from the International Journal of Cancer in April of this year found “among premenopausal women the risk of breast cancer is 60 percent or 70 percent higher with the shortest telomere lengths”.
What can you do to reduce the rate at which your telomeres shorten?
- reduce excess body fat ( especially visceral fat) and improve body composition
- get regular aerobic and resistance exercise
- Sleep 7-9 hours per night
- Reduce stress
- Stop smoking
- Follow a mediterranean-style diet: increasing fruits and vegetable, health fats, soluble fiber, more fish
- Avoid highly processed foods, fast foods, artifical sweeteners that increase oxidative stress
- Achieve hormone balance with bioidentical hormones
Telomere testing is now available at Alternity Healthcare through Spectracell Labs.