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Anti-ageing tips for telomeres length fitness

What are telomeres and how can they support anti-aging?

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We’re all on the hunt for the best anti-ageing creams, retinols and other products, but what if we could control our ageing from the inside? We speak to experts to find out more

For decades, youth has been a valuable currency. We’re all looking for the quickest and easiest ways to look younger, but in 2024, people are interested in feeling young and vital as well as looking it. While there’s a great deal of information out there, it can be difficult to know exactly where to start.

Experts think that understanding telomeres might well help unravel the mysteries of anti-ageing, so we spoke to Dr Ioannis Liakas, medical director of Vie Aesthetics, and Sandra Cohen, nutritionist and founder of functional medicine and nutritional therapy practice  Aura & Meta, to find out more.

What are telomeres?

Telomeres are large proteins that can be found at the ends of chromosomes, and they act as protective caps to prevent the loss of genetic information during cell division, which is key for growth, the replacement of worn-out cells and repairing damaged tissue.

“As telomeres shorten, cells reach a critical point where they shut down or self-destruct, leading to cellular senescence,” explains Sandra. “Telomerase, an enzyme, plays a crucial role in lengthening telomeres; however, its activity declines with age. While increasing telomerase might seem like a solution to enhance longevity, it’s not that straightforward. Long telomeres can aberrantly link up, potentially promoting cancer.”

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Telomeres may be the key to longevity
What are the health impacts of shortened telomeres?

“Shortened telomeres have been associated with a wide range of age-related diseases and health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and cognitive decline,” says Dr Liakas.

In this study of more than 450,000 individuals, experts found that reduced telomere length was associated with increased overall and various disease-specific mortalities. More than 200 disorders were found to be significantly overrepresented or underrepresented in participants with shorter leukocyte telomere length.

It’s important to note that while research into the relationship between telomeres and longevity is still underway, it can still be a helpful place to start when exploring your own wellbeing. You can get a test to determine the state of your telomeres and overall health with Dr Liakas at Vie Aesthetics.

What causes telomeres to shorten?

While there’s a range of lifestyle and environmental factors that will impact your telomere length, the main culprits will come as no surprise.

“Chronic psychological stress, exposure to environmental toxins, smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity and sedentary lifestyle, obesity and inadequate sleep,” says Dr Liakas. “It’s important to add that certain medical conditions and genetic predispositions may also impact telomere dynamics and cellular ageing.”

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Woman wandering amid the wilderness and nature
Lifestyle and environmental conditions also impact longevity
How can you retain telomere length?

A healthy telomere length demands nothing more than what you’d expect of a healthy lifestyle such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, stress management, adequate sleep and avoiding harmful habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

This is where epigenetic changes come into play — namely, how your behaviours and environment can impact the way your genes work. Studies of those living in Blue Zones — communities where people live longer than the global average — have highlighted some key lifestyle attributes that seem to benefit longevity.

“Key aspects of the lifestyle in Blue Zones include a strong sense of purpose, regular quiet time and connection with nature, engagement in joyful activities, consistent physical movement, a deep sense of belonging to a community and nurturing healthy relationships,” says Sandra.

Does diet impact telomeres?

“Research indicates that a diet rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals may help support telomere maintenance and potentially slow down the rate of telomere shortening,” says Dr Liakas. “It’s beneficial to have a diet rich in foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fatty fish and lean proteins.”

“Blue Zone residents typically adhere to a dietary pattern characterised by calorie restriction and a predominantly plant-based diet with minimal consumption of meat and processed foods,” adds Sandra.

She also highlights curcumin (a compound found in turmeric), green tea and resveratrol (a polyphenol found in red grapes, blueberries and dark chocolate) to be potentially beneficial in reducing oxidative and inflammatory responses to unhealthy meals.

Vitamins play an important role too. B-vitamins, including folate, B12 and B6, are essential for DNA synthesis and repair, and can be found in eggs, lean meats, legumes and dark, leafy greens. Omega-3 fatty acid and vitamin D can be found in oily fish like salmon and mackerel, while antioxidants can be found in colourful veggies such as carrots, beetroot, radishes, pumpkin, blueberries and peppers.

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Sleep is essential for good health
How important is sleep for your telomeres?

Famously, sleep is vital for our overall wellbeing, as this is when our bodies can repair damage and regenerate. This includes vital telomere and cellular health maintenance.

“I cannot stress the importance of good sleep enough,” says Dr Liakas. “Poor sleep quality or insufficient sleep has been linked to accelerated telomere shortening and increased cellular ageing.”

If you struggle with getting enough sleep, there are lots of solutions to try, including yoga nidra practices, sleep meditations, cutting out caffeine after 2pm, taking a hot shower or bath before bed, breathwork, journaling and more.

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Regular exercise is useful in increasing telomere length
What role does fitness play in telomere lengthening?

It’s not news to anyone that regular exercise is important. It helps improve cardiovascular function, reduce inflammation and promote DNA repair mechanisms, all of which contribute to telomere maintenance and longevity.

“Aerobic exercise, in particular, has been associated with longer telomeres and reduced cellular ageing,” says Dr Liakas.

Whether it’s running, dance, yoga or badminton, the best exercise for you is the one you’ll actually do. Telomere maintenance requires consistent and healthy lifestyle choices — unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. This is all about the long game.

“Healthy ageing is influenced by a complex interplay of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors,” concludes Dr Liakas. “By adopting a holistic approach to health and wellbeing, including regular exercise, balanced nutrition, a good wellness protocol with antioxidants, stress management, adequate sleep and avoidance of harmful habits, individuals can support optimal cellular function and promote healthy ageing.”

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