The connection between stress, telomeres and aging, as well as how to prevent accelerated telomere shortening for a healthier long life is well documented.
Research into chromosomes and the end caps that protect them shows that physical and mental stress contribute to accelerated aging. It also suggests that certain supplements, exercising smart, and reducing stress can protect and even lengthen telomeres to turn back the hands of time.
Telomeres are the protective 'caps' made of junk DNA located on each end of the chromosomes. They allow cells to replicate, or divide, without damaging the DNA inside them.
Normally, a cell copies itself about 50 times before the end caps get too short to hold the DNA together. At this point, the cell can no longer divide. It dies and is replaced with a new on. Skin cells and stem cells are two types of cells that divide this way. Your body replaces about 30 billion cells every day.
Heart and nerve cells do not divide. Younger cells, immune cells, and reproductive cells (sperm and eggs) produce an enzyme called telemerase that keeps the caps long. This allows these cells to copy themselves indefinitely.
Scientists believe there is a connection between telomeres and aging. Although there are other more factors related to aging, it appears that the length of your telomeres correlates to your biological age.
Shorter end caps indicate cellular aging. Longer end caps are a sign of youthfulness. Your brain, organs and systems function better.
Even though telomere shortening is expected as cells divide, things can sometimes go wrong. If the caps are too short as the cell divides, the ends of the chromosomes can fray or stick to each other. This scrambles the genetic information and puts you at risk for osteoporosis, obesity, insulin resistance, infectious disease, cancers and higher risk of dying from a heart attack.
Studies show clear evidence of the relationship between stress, telomeres and aging. Stress, in its many forms, speeds up telomere shortening.
Physical stress in the forms of free radicals, inflammation, toxins and even lack of sleep negatively affect telomerase production.
Mental stress also has a huge impact on the your cells. The stress hormone cortisol causes white blood cells to age faster. It suppresses their protective telemorase production so their end caps shorten and you become more susceptible to illness and premature aging.
Cell biologist, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn has proven that psychological stress accelerates aging. A study of mothers caring for chronically ill children showed that the longer care was given, the lower the mother's telomerase and the shorter her telomeres had become.
Another study of healthy premenopausal women showed that women experiencing chronic stress had shorter end caps than the low-stress group. This shortening happened at the rate of ten years faster.
A 2011 study (CG Parks et al) showed that telomeres of full time working women were significantly shorter than their non-working counterparts.
This interesting video by Drs. Oz and Roizen explain why and how this happens. They also show you an easy way to help yourself calm your body's reaction to stress.
Although aging is inevitable, you can exert a positive influence on your telomeres and aging process by reducing all kinds of stress.
There is still much to learn about how to activate telomerase and turn back the clock. Early research shows evidence that an expensive supplement called TA-65, made from astragalus root activates telomerase, causing end caps to lengthen. It also looks promising that omega 3 fish oil, supporting your body's detoxification processes, relaxing and clearing your mind, and interval exercises all have a positive effect on telomeres and aging.