By Dr. Isabel Sharkar
There is a difference between chronological age, based on when a person was born, and biological age, based on the length of a person’s telomeres. What are telomeres, you ask? They are sections of DNA at the end of each chromosome that serve as a cap to each individual’s genetic material.
Every time a cell replicates, its telomere becomes shorter. Although this is normally occurring with age, lifestyle factors can be a major contributor to how rapidly telomeres shorten. Shorter telomeres imply a shorter life span for a cell and when the telomeres become too short, the cells stop duplicating.
Telomere length is considered to be an excellent biomarker of tissue regeneration and aging. The evaluation of telomere length is an indicator of how rapidly one ages relative to the normal population. By analyzing telomere length, individuals may gain insights into their overall health status, life span and susceptibility to disease.
This information may encourage a person to make adjustments to his or her lifestyle that can lead to better health and a longer life. A simple telomere blood test can reveal a person’s biological age. Visit your local naturopath to inquire about testing.
Genetics and lifestyle factors affect the length of telomeres. Lifestyle factors such as enduring long periods of high emotional stress, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, inadequate amounts of sleep and an inflammatory diet that includes alcohol, refined carbohydrates, fast or processed foods, artificial sweeteners and trans fats, all increase oxidative stress and rapidly shorten telomeres.
Telomeres respond to a healthy lifestyle such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly and eliminating chronic stress. Practicing intermittent fasting for 12 hours, avoiding weight gain and obesity, getting adequate amounts of sleep, practicing being present in the moment and meditation have been shown to slow the rate of telomere loss.
Dr. Isabel Sharkar, ND, is a licensed naturopathic physician and co-owner of the Indigo Integrative Health Clinic, in Georgetown. For more information, call 202-298-9131 or visit IndigoHealthClinic.com.