Could Your Body’s Fuse Be Burning Out?
Telomeres is a “hot subject” these days as they are considered to be an important factor in the ageing process, and although ageing is multifaceted, a host of research demonstrates that telomere length is as an excellent biomarker for ageing at the cellular level. The shortening of telomeres, over time, accelerates cellular ageing, however there are various nutrients that assist telomere repair and help maintain telomere length, that have proven health benefits.
What Exactly Are Telomeres?
They are often compared to the burning fuse; like this fuse, telomeres at the end of our chromosomes, steadily but surely shorten every time a cell replicates itself. Telomeres are a ‘time-bomb’ that hold the key to biological ageing; they are small strands of DNA code in our genes which control ageing and cell replication. In short, they help dictate how fast or slowly we age. Once they have reached a ‘critical point’ of shortness, cellular replication can no longer take place, which leads to ageing (senescence) of the cell and finally death, sometimes known as the “Hayflick limit process”. Ageing cells are not needed in the body and no longer contribute to efficacious tissue upkeep. And, in fact, telomere length is a very useful biomarker of cellular ageing.
Cells contain an enzyme (enzymes are special chemicals which speed up the body’s processes. Enzyme function declines with age) known as telomerase, which has the function of adding fresh new DNA to the ends of telomeres, assisting in keeping them long enough to support and maintain cellular health and activity.
What Circumstances Activate, Determine and Accelerate Telomere Shortening?
At every turn, we are faced with an internal (within our body) battle against negative forces. The eternal, endless and internal battle, wages war on our molecules, our cells, our entire body, as those forces actively work to destroy them. Our enemies in this war include: oxidation, glycation (a process that is damaging and toxic to the body), abnormal methylation (can lead to an increased risk of certain cancers, heart disease, stroke, neurodegenerative diseases, and other chronic issues.), inflammation, and DNA gene mutation. At the same time, we also have to face external influences; environmental toxins, unhealthy diet, overeating (a restricted diet has been associated with significantly longer telomeres and longevity), lack of exercise, smoking, nature of work/profession, stress, hormone and vitamin deficiencies. All of these trigger the shortening of telomere length.
At every level, life and longevity is a balance of factors. Just as love is a balance of growing, learning and understanding each other; a balance between freedom and trust: ageing is a balance between entropy and defense; degradation and restoration. We must learn to come together and understand it, and learn how we can protect our telomeres and therefore, our lives and our longevity.
Why are Telomeres More Important as we Age?
Our body is so intricately designed that the human infrastructure instinctively defends us from an attack. From the top and at every level, the body has specific systems in place to protect, minimise, restore and repair damage. But as we age, from approximately 30 years, the human infrastructure and its systems begin to break down. As the years and decades pass, the breakdown picks up speed, shifting gears from first, to second, and finally sixth gear.
Our body is no longer able to repair itself as it once did. Cells can’t recycle as well as they once did, and as a result, the damage in our body increases. We now get a shift towards more damage and decay (known as catabolic) from restore and repair (known as anabolic). Age-related defects in metabolism equate to increased pathology (disease). When the body slows, the restore and repair systems in place decline and, at the same time, the pace of telomere shortening increases. The erosion of telomeres plays a role in ALL diseases. Shortened telomeres are found in individuals with age-related disorders including neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
In my next blog on Telomeres, I will explain how you can help to maintain their length with vitamin supplementation.
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