Taking Care of Telomeres
yoga, stretching and Tai Chi are ...
proven stress modulators.
By Leigh Erin Connealy , MD
Fighting aging at the cellular level starts by supporting some of the smallest components with stress reduction, regula activity, nutritious food and a positive attitude.
The phrase “Good things come in small packages” wasn't originally intended to describe telomeres, but it definitely applies. Telomeres are microscopic caps shielding the ends of our chromosomes. These little collections of DNA (the material that contains each cell's genetic instructions) are involved in the process of cell division, a vitally important process that helps keeps our bodies functioning properly. Each time a cell divides, the telomere attached to it contributes a portion of itself to the process and therefore becomes smaller.
At some point, the telomere is too small to continue providing this service, so cell division stops. While the cell remains alive, it can't renew itself and its ability to function slows or ends completely. You can see the effects of shortened telomeres in sagging, wrinkled skin, and diseases normally associated with aging, such as heart disease and a weakened immune system. And several studies have confirmed that individuals with shorter telomeres are more vulnerable to a variety of ailments.
As a result, scientists have been looking for ways to keep telomeres from shrinking. So far, the findings suggest that one of the best ways to do that is with lifestyle changes. At the top of the list: stress management!
De-Stressing Slows the Clock
Here's how stress affects telomeres: During stressful events, the adrenal glands produce hormones that damage and sometimes kill immune system cells. To replace them, other cells in the immune system take on the job of replicating, which causes their telomeres to become shorter. So more stress means shorter telomeres, which eventually translates into less effective cells throughout the body. In other words, cells may become old before their time as a result of repeated bouts of unmanaged stress.
Stress management techniques run the gamut, ranging from exercise to meditation and visualization to breathing practices designed specifically for that purpose. In the exercise category, cardio workouts are one option, but yoga, stretching and Tai Chi are also proven stress modulators.