Do you want to live forever? I do. That is if the quailty of my life is excellent. I don't want to live in unbearable pain or in some prolonged vegetative state, but a quality life without end - sign me up! Actually, I'm already signed up as I hope you are. My faith in Jesus Christ ensures that I will spend eternity in Heaven. But what about extending our lives on earth? Most people are in no hurry to die, myself included.
As I research myriads of books and articles about anti-aging for my “Growing Young” book (working title), I ran across a very interesting book called The Immortality Edge by Fossel, Blackburn and Woynarowski – medical doctors and researchers in the science of extending life. The central theme of their book is stated in their tag line: Realize the Secrets of Your Telomeres for a Longer, Healthier Life. Until recently, I didn’t even know I had telomeres. Well, I do. And so do you.
Telomeres are defined as the segment of DNA that occurs at the ends of chromosomes. They are the non-genetic material that determines the life span of a cell. They’ve been described as long strands of “junk” DNA. Instead of losing vital DNA during replication, segments of the telomeres break off and grow shorter and shorter. At the point that the telomere reaches its critical limit, the cell either stops reproducing or dies.
Today, the age of a cell can be measured by the length of its telomere. Infants have very long telomeres, but not near as long as those of embryos. Of course adults, have even shorter telomeres. Telomeres don’t actually measure chronological age, but rather biological age – supporting the “you’re as young as you feel” cliché. I know this may be “TMI” (too much info) for some of you. But hang in there with me as it is fascinating and worth pondering the possibilities.
The authors say that telomere biology is “an extension of all other theories on aging – including wear and tear, antioxidant deficiency, genetic and hormonal deterioration, and mitochondrial aging and dysfunction – since ultimately they all point to the telomere”. One proof that telomeres are at the center of much of the longevity and anti-aging science is the fact that telomere researchers won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2009. Even more fascinating discoveries have been made since then that are causing many scientists to believe we can not only stop aging, but reverse it. Wow.
This is exciting information for someone who turns sixty in 150 days. It’s even more exciting for my father who turns 84 in two weeks and will ski until his last dying day if he can. So, I flipped through this interesting book to look beyond the pure science and theory to find out what I could do today about those little tail-like telomeres that were shrinking daily as my cells replicate into an imperfect replica of my younger self.
The book includes a test to help me determine my “Telomere Age”. You start by giving yourself ten thousand points and then begin adding or subtracting points based on lifestyle questions such as:
How old are you? (Subtract 250 points for every decade over 20) – Bummer, I was down 750 points already!
- Do you smoke? (Subtract 250 points if yes)
- Do you drink more than two drinks of alcohol a day?
- How much do you sleep?
- Do you take fish oil?
- Do you have high blood pressure?
And so on. Obviously, I don’t have permission to duplicate the test – you’ll have to buy the book if you want to take it. There were seventy questions in all. At the end, a 5000 to 6000 score meant you were between age 60 and 70. I scored 8,500 and rated at less than 35 years old. So, I took it again and scored myself very carefully and still was over 8000. What was so encouraging was that many of the lifestyle habits I’ve developed over the last fifteen years are factors that support my telomeres.
So, as I close today’s blog – I’ll share my top ten lifestyle factors that helped me score so high – because they are things that you can also do to keep your little DNA tails nice and long.
- Sleep seven to nine hours most nights. Melatonin helps me greatly – I really like the time release type.
- Fish oil EVERY DAY. I take a double dose morning and night and I can see and feel the difference.
- Exercise 6 to 7 days a week. I usually get 45 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise and 15 to 20 of conditioning.
- Be anxious for nothing! Learn to deal with stress and trust God. Tomorrow has enough worries of its own.
- Love life. Rejoice in the Lord!
- Take supplements to fill in your nutritional gaps.
- Eat 30+ grams of fiber every day.
- Use olive oil instead of other vegetable oils.
- Drink green tea (or supplements).
- Never overeat.
Immortality on this earth – not meant to be!