by Dr. Will Cole
As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, there are certain lab tests that can tell you how quickly or how slowly your body is aging. Specifically, the length of your telomeres (the end caps of your chromosomes) determine how long you will live. The shorter your telomeres, the shorter your life! In that article I suggested having seven labs run and then working to get all the results in the optimal range. But how do you do that? Here are some of my favorite peer-reviewed-research-supported strategies that have been shown to be effective in preserving and extending telomere length and, in turn, extending your life:
1. Increase glutathione.
Glutathione is your body’s most powerful antioxidant and is a potent cancer-fighter (it may be one of the reasons why some people don’t get cancer). Low levels are linked to accelerated aging and chronic disease, and many people are deficient in this essential antioxidant. But you can boost your level right now with nutrients such as N-acetyl cysteine and turmeric, both of which have been shown to help boost glutathione in the body and preserve telomere integrity.
2. Reduce stress.
It is no secret that stress harms health. Research has shown that chronic stress actually shortens telomere length prematurely, which in turn accelerates aging. This applies to everyone at any age – even kids. One study found that abused children had prematurely shortened telomeres. Another study found similar results in women under chronic stress.
See how important stress management is? When possible, try to remove yourself from long-term stressful situations and highly stressful relationships. Of course, we can’t reduce all stress, but we can start and end each day with stress-relieving practices such as tai chi or meditation, to help break the chronic stress cycle and rescue our telomeres from unnecessarily rapid degradation.
3. Train in bursts.
You don’t have to be a gym junkie to get fitter than you are right now. Try high intensity interval training (HIIT) or burst training for less than half an hour a few times a week. Just a small chunk of time devoted to this highly effective exercise technique has been shown to increase your body’s cellular repair anti-aging mechanisms and preserve telomeres.
4. Fast intermittently.
What, stop eating? It might sound intense, but I’m not talking about weeks of deprivation. The temporary restriction of calories for as little as just 12 to 16 hours per day (including sleep time) or drastically limiting calories for one or two days per week, has been shown to have a significant rejuvenative effect, slowing the aging process.
Studies have shown that animals who ate about 30% fewer calories also lived about 30 percent longer than the animals that ate more. One study also showed a reduction of cancer risk with intermittent fasting. This may not be for everyone but is one way to increase the release of your body’s anti-aging hormones and preserve telomere length.
5. Eat lots of different plants.
The human body runs on energy and thrives on nutrients, and what better place to get both than vegetables, straight out of nature’s medicine cabinet? The trick is to eat a wide variety, as each different plant – especially those of varying colors – offers a unique array of the nutrients your body craves. Studies have suggested that the greater variety of plants you eat, the better your telomeres will be preserved because you will most likely to hit all your nutritional bases.
Whenever a client (or friend) tells me, “Well, I don’t eat vegetables,” or, “I only like these two vegetables,” or the infamous, “I like corn” (FYI, corn is a grain, not a vegetable), what I see in an immovable attitude. They’ve decided ahead of time which vegetables they will and won’t eat, and most of these people have not tried very many varieties. When I can get them to try something new, they often like it, surprising themselves. For those who don’t, I say exactly what I say to my two young children: “Sometimes in life, we do things we don’t feel like doing at the moment, because those things are good for us and will help us be stronger and healthier. That’s what big kids do.” Be a big kid!
6. Sip tea.
You’ve probably heard all about the health benefits of tea, but did you know that among all its other stellar nutritional features, tea also preserves telomere length? One study found that those who drank three cups of tea per day had significantly longer telomeres than those who drank only a small amount. Green tea has a much higher percentage of valuable nutrients called polyphenols than black tea, so it is the best choice for longevity.
7. Eat healthy fats.
If you are up on the latest nutrition research, you may already know that the low-fat diet approach to health that has been promulgated for the last 50 years has contributed to even more chronic disease because fact: Good fats are essential for a healthy, long life. Research has linked healthy fat consumption with an extension of telomeres as well as external signs of eternal youth.
Also remember your brain is made of 60% fat and 25% cholesterol, so fats like coconut oil, fermented cod liver oil, butter oil, grass-fed beef, and avocado aid in optimal brain, cellular and hormonal function, keeping your mind as well as your body younger for longer. These fats are also needed for fat soluble vitamins like A, D, and K2 to be used by the body. Both these fats and fat-soluble vitamins are needed for the preservation of your telomeres. Pass the guacamole!
8. Hit the hay.
Quality sleep is essential for cellular repair as well as for sufficient energy and vitality. Poor sleep habits (sometimes called sleep hygiene), whether due to physical conditions like sleep apnea or insomnia or due to lifestyle, such as an erratic work schedule or late-night-TV or internet addiction, have been linked to accelerated aging and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and (you guessed it) shorter telomeres. The individual cause of your poor sleep will determine the treatment, and a functional medicine practitioner or other qualified health care provide can help you address your issues specifically.
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