Telomeres: The Number One Predictor of Your Health
According to Elisa Epel, Associate Professor in Residence at University of California, San Francisco, biological age is greatest predictor of the onset of early disease. When Dr. Epel refers to age, she is not speaking about your age in chronological years – thank goodness! Scientific researchers have discovered that the length of your telomeres, the ends of each of your chromosomes, is the greatest predictor of your biological age (Greider & Blackburn, 1989). Longer telomeres denote a younger biological age, more health, and a decreased risk of disease. The opposite is also true, the shorter the telomere length, the greater the biological age and an increased chance of developing a disease.
You might be wondering: Why is this information important for me to know? There are a few very important reasons. Research has proven that thoughts, behaviors, and lifestyle choices have a direct link to the length of your telomeres. While genetics play an important role in your health, 50 % of your biological age is derived from decisions that you make on a daily basis! Dr. Epel explains that CHRONIC STRESS is the number one factor that relates to the shortening of telomeres. Together, Dr. Epel and Dr. Blackburn furthered telomere research and discovered that stress is the number one factor affecting the body’s ability to repair itself. Our cells know if we are doing well and they often listen to our suffering, anxiety, stress, and exposure to trauma!
The wonderful news is that research has proven that decreasing mind wandering (i.e. worrying about the past and future events) has actually slowed cell aging! There are many ways that you can create a practice of staying in the present moment which will create greater health in your entire body – including your cells. It might be helpful to identify the biggest stressors in your life. How might you find ways to decrease this stress? Are there activities that you do that allow you to “lose track of time” or “get lost in the moment”? These are wonderful activities to particpate in more often. Also, meditation is a great way to develop an awareness of being in the moment. I have included a free download of a guided meditation on my website here. Please note that if you find yourself ruminating about situations in your past or often worrying about the future, it might be helpful to speak with a mental health professional about your experiences. For more information about choosing an appropriate mental health resource, please click here.
If you would like to hear more directly about this subject from Elisa Epel herself, please review the TED talk resource below!
Greider CW, Blackburn EH. A telomeric sequence in the RNA of Tetrahymena telomerase required for telomere repeat synthesis. Nature 1989; 337:331-7.