Tag Archives: longevity

Longer Telomeres for Longer Lives

How do we live longer healthier lives? Is it inevitable that our cells will stop functioning properly and we will get chronic degenerative diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and dementia? My goal is to support my body now so that I can delay the “inevitable” for as long as possible.

We can keep our DNA and therefore our bodies functioning optimally by emphasizing healthy diet and exercise. A recent small study by Dr. Dean Ornish demonstrated that following a healthy lifestyle plan could actually lengthen our telomeres. Telomeres are the genetic caps on the end of each DNA strand. I think of them like these plastic protectors on the ends of shoelaces.

shoelaces
As our cells divide, our DNA is copied. With each copy, the telomeres get a little shorter. Eventually, we can lose so much of our telomeres that our DNA is not longer protected. The cells produced at this point don’t have all the tools they need to be fully functioning cells and our health can suffer.

The shortening of telomeres has been linked to many chronic diseases including some forms of cancer, stroke, cardiovascular disease, obesity, osteoporosis and diabetes. Because of this, some people regard telomere length to be the best marker of our true biological age.
In Dr. Ornish’s study, participants followed a plant-based diet, exercised regularly, and participated in stress reduction activities like gentle yoga-based stretching, breathing exercises, and meditation. The 10 men doing these lifestyle interventions had a 10% increase in the length of their telomeres over 5 years. The control group showed a 3% decrease in their telomere length during that time.

Life Style Changes_graphic_v2

This was just a small study using participants who had prostate cancer, so we cannot definitely say that everyone making similar healthy changes will see the same results. We also need more studies that confirm that longer telomeres contribute to longer healthier lives, but we know that these types of beneficial changes make sense anyways. Additionally, another study showed that women who took multivitamins had longer telomeres that their peers the same age who didn’t.
I consider studies like these to be further motivation for us to make these types of healthy changes to our lives. They give us hope that we can even undo some of the damage we might have already done by making better choices today.

Yes, Fish Oil May Help You Live Longer

Back in the 1980, all fats were considered to be unhealthy.  Then, we started distinguishing between good fats and bad fats. Healthy fats include certain unsaturated fats like the monounsaturated fats in olive oil and Omega-3 fatty acids. Sources of Omega-3s fats includes fish, fish oil, canola oil, flaxseeds, and a few other seeds and nuts. Omega-3 fatty acids are widely used to help reduce inflammation and blood clotting. They are also important for skin health and mood. Omega-3 oils support the brain and are associated with healthier brains as we age.

It has long been argued that consuming fish or other Omega-3 sources is good for the heart. Some studies have confirmed this, but others showed no results. A recent well-conducted study seems to have solidly demonstrated the benefits of Omega-3 for the heart and overall longevity. Of over 2000 participants over 65 years old, those with the highest blood levels of Omega-3s had a 27% lower risk of death compared to those with the lowest levels during the 15 years they were tracked. This corresponded to the people with the higher levels of Omega-3s living 2 years longer on average. The largest effect was a 50% reduction in deaths due to cardiac arrhythmias, which are irregular heartbeats that can be live threatening. The difference between this and previous studies is this study measured the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in the blood of the participants, while other studies had relied on dietary recall of what participants were eating or used questionable quality fish oil supplements. Many prescription and supplemental fish oils are modified from their natural form and may not be absorbed well. It is argued that fish oils that occur in their natural form, know as triglycerides, will be much better absorbed. This is one of the reasons I recommend brand that make sure their oils are in the natural triglyceride form like Nordic Naturals.