Who wouldn’t want to look better and feel healthier?  This is true no matter what decade of life you are in.  The good news is this: there are things you can do now to improve the way you age at a cellular level
 
In 2009, three molecular biologists – Elisabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider, and Jack Szostak – won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their research into telomeres and their effects on aging.  Telomeres are the caps on our strands of DNA.  Think of them like the protective tip on a shoelace; without the tip, the shoelace ravels and becomes unusable.  This is similar to our DNA.  If protected by long telomeres, the cell can easily divide and renew the tissues that depend on it.  As telomeres shorten, the cell loses its ability to divide and dies.
 
In the book, The Telomere Effect:  A Younger, Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer, Blackburn, and co-author Elissa Epel, PhD, provide these tips to keep your telomeres thriving:
 
Telomeres Love Fish
They especially love fish that contains Omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and tuna.  In fact, they thrive on any Omega-3 foods: walnuts, flaxseed, chia seed, and soy.  Foods associated with shorter telomere length include sugar, saturated fat, processed meats, white bread, pastries, and excess alcohol.
 
Telomeres Don’t Care What You Weigh
More than a number on a scale, telomeres care about your metabolic health—how well you control blood sugar levels.  This is true whether or not you are diabetic.  On the other hand, yo-yo dieting (losing the same 20 pounds or so over and over ) puts telomeres into a tailspin.
 
Telomeres Favor a Couple Forms of Exercise
Two forms of aerobic exercise are especially popular with telomeres:
 
  1. Moderate exercise like light jogging or fast walking, done 3 times a week for 45 minutes each
  2. High-intensity interval training, with a 10-minute warm-up, 4 intervals of fast and easy running (or brisk walking), and a 10-minute cooldown
 
Although the current research hasn’t linked strength training to telomere length, strength training is still vitally important for revving metabolism and maximizing bone health – especially as we get older.
 
Telomeres Crave Sleep
Telomeres respond best to a full night’s sleep, at least 7 hours, allowing your body to complete its four required sleep stages.  Short-changing yourself on sleep prevents your cells from replenishing as they should.  Likewise, you can’t make up for lack of weekday sleep by sleeping in on weekends.
 
Telomeres Know When You are Stressed Out
Anxiety, depression, pessimism, chronic stress and hostility have all been linked to the depletion of telomeres.  This can be undone, however, through meditation and mind-body practices like yoga or tai-chi and by reframing stress as a positive.
  
The top takeaway is this:  lifestyle choices — including nutrition, movement, sleep and stress management – impact how you age at a cellular level.  It’s never too late to improve this picture.
About the Author 
Sally Duplantier is the founder of Zing, a company that helps people improve their Healthspan—the number of years in which they are healthy, active and mentally sharp. She has a certificate in Nutrition Science from Stanford Medical School and is studying the science of aging at USC, where she is working on a Masters in Gerontology.