Unlock the secret to reversing aging and maximize your healthspan for life
What if I told you that you could literally grow younger with age? Well, you can. It comes down to improving the health and length of your telomeres.
What are telomeres?
Telomeres are an essential part of human cells that affect aging. More specifically, they are the caps at the ends of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes. They are akin to the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. Just as shoelaces fray without these plastic caps, DNA strands are damaged and your cells can’t protect you without functioning telomeres. That exposes us to cellular aging, age-related illness, and dysfunction.
Research has shown that the shortening of the telomeres undermines our immune system, making us vulnerable to infection and age-related diseases. A separate 2007 study found that short telomeres were associated with decreases in bone mineral density in women.
For these reasons, telomere length is considered a key marker in measuring a person’s biological age and may be a more accurate indicator of how well – or poorly – a person is aging than chronological age. That’s right, the number of candles on your birthday cake may not measure your true biological age. You could be 45 chronologically, but if your telomeres are damaged, your biological age may be 50 or even older.
What causes telomeres to shorten?
Telomere shortening is an inevitable part of aging. Your telomeres shorten each time a cell divides. That’s a normal and necessary process: cell division is vital as all cells turn over, whether they are cells from your skin, your heart, or your intestines. But certain lifestyle habits can accelerate telomere shortening. Studies show that telomeres are adversely affected by:
- Inadequate or disturbed sleep
- A sedentary lifestyle and limited exercise
- Poor diet
For you to stay healthy, it is important to maintain telomere length and slow down the physiological aging process on the cellular level.
How can I maintain or lengthen telomeres?
You can slow the shrinking of your telomeres by addressing habits that also damage so many other aspects of your health. Here are six ways:
- Improve sleep quality
- Reduce stress
- Stop smoking
- Lose fat and increase or maintain muscle
- Exercise appropriately
- Eat healthy food
These habits should work for you. And research indicates that these telomere-protective lifestyle changes may help you live longer. For example, if you play tennis, keep it up! A study of 8,577 Danish men and women published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that people who played tennis or other social sports lived longer than people who were sedentary. Compared to couch potatoes, adults who regularly participated in tennis lived an average of 9.7 years longer. The tennis players also lived longer than people who did healthy but more solitary fitness activities like cycling (3.7 years), jogging (3.2 years) or health club activities (1.5 years).
Don’t forget to mix resistance training (weight lifting) in with your aerobic tennis playing. Maintaining muscle as you age is another proven longevity booster. And adding some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to your routine may help you maintain telomere length. For example, one study in the European Heart Journal showed that 6 months of HIIT and endurance training (but not resistance training) increased activity of telomerase, an enzyme that mounting evidence suggests may reactivate and lengthen telomeres. And a 2021 review of studies in Frontiers in Genetics concluded that aerobic exercise and/or endurance training, and moderate intensity resistance training appear to increase the activity of telomerase and conserve telomere length.
Exposing telomeres to telomerase has been shown to slow, stop, and even reverse the telomere shortening process by changing gene expression.
The good news is that there is a plant-based supplement derived from the root of astragalus, a Chinese herb, that is clinically proven to activate telomerase and rebuild telomeres. A double-blind study published in the journal Rejuvenation Research found that relatively healthy adults supplementing with the root of astragalus significantly increased telomere length over a 12-month period, whereas subjects in the placebo group lost telomere length.
The clinical team at Comite Center for Precision Medicine & Health recommends this herb to our clients and many have responded well. Some clients no longer use reading glasses while others have noticed that hair color reverts to pre-gray and age spots on the arms are less evident or disappear. While these outcomes are not experienced by all, lengthening of telomeres is documented in the majority of individuals within a year.
How do I know the status of my telomere length?
Several companies advertise telomere analysis, however, I’m most familiar with Life Length, based in Madrid, and RepeatDX in Vancouver. Both labs measure telomeres. You will need a physician to order the test and explain the results.
Protecting our telomeres (and even lengthening them) is just one of the breakthrough ways the practice of Precision Medicine can improve your health. At the Comite Center for Precision Medicine & Health, we’ve witnessed remarkable transformations in our clients by customizing a plan to stop aging and reverse disease progression. To learn more, visit comitemd.com. And also explore what our new virtual medicine app Groq Health can do for you.
Florence Comite, M.D., is a Yale-educated endocrinologist, has trained as a clinical research scientist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and is founder of the Comite Center for Precision Medicine & Health in New York City, Palo Alto, and Miami Beach. She is the CEO and founder of Groq Health, which delivers precision medicine and health care through a digital clinic.