What are Telomeres? The health industry is a two trillion dollar industry, so there is no doubt that today’s subject is a hot topic. Anti-aging and longevity are at the core of the pursuit of health because the decisions we make today regarding our wellbeing are what pave the way for tomorrow. As Health Hunters, we don’t just want to live a long time; we want to live long, healthy. Today we’re going to explore the latest science regarding the best projections to measure your life span. Here I will highlight some of the ways you can optimize your longevity. I’ll also shed some light on the habits that are shortening our lifespan.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
Telomeres: Measuring The Biological Clock
Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes. They are much like the plastic tips at the end of your shoelaces. We have about 15 thousand when we start and around 5 thousand when we die. Similar to how the plastic coating protects our laces’ integrity, these caps protect our chromosomes, and our lifestyle decisions have a profound impact on how quickly these telomeres stay intact.
We know the average projection of telomeres humans have from when they are born to the time they die. Modern testing enables us to compare the state of your telomeres to that of your biological age, essentially providing a side-by-side of your actual age and your cellular age. The test is done by a company called Teloyears, which sends you a kit to take a simple at-home blood sample (via finger prick), which you then send back to get analyzed in their lab.
Many people are shocked by their telomere testing results because our outer appearance and sensation of well-being often do not correlate with how healthy our telomeres are. We can get away with a lot on the outside, at the expense of our telomere health. A prime example of this is endurance athletes, who may come across as the image of health—but studies show that endurance athletes are aging prematurely. Unfortunately, without testing, there is no way to know what is truly going on inside.
The good news is that you can increase the length of your telomeres with lifestyle intervention. The sooner you start implementing telomere health-optimizing habits, the better. Although these habits benefit people of all ages, the benefits are more profound the earlier you start incorporating them.
Aging Gracefully: It’s A Natural Process
The body is designed to age gracefully, naturally. The curve of cellular age and biological age should go hand in hand if we live in tune with nature. The problems start to arise when we lose touch with nature. Getting back in touch with nature means optimizing hormones with ancestral ways of moving, eating, and sleeping. None of these things are out of reach from the average person; in fact, many of them are incredibly accessible.
The Secret to Lengthening Your Telomeres:
Detoxing at the cellular level: no doubt one of our favorite subjects here at Health Hunters. Detoxing doesn’t involve green smoothies or pharmacy bought detox powders or pills. True cellular detox is a science and an art, which you can learn more about in-depth at DrPompa.com.
- Don’t eat less. Eat less often: is another concept we love, not only for fat loss and hormone optimization but indeed for longevity! Studies show eating less is one of the keys to longevity, but not by caloric deprivation. Instead, you want to combine a few different eating styles that will reduce calories overall, without ever triggering starvation mode.
- Intermittent Fasting: eat within an 8-10 hour window daily, and when you do eat: eat until full.
- Diet Variation: whether you do it weekly, monthly, or seasonally, diet variation is the cyclical eating style that includes low carb (keto) days, higher carb refeeding periods, and fasting days. Rotating your diet will keep your body guessing, adapting, and optimizing. Block water fasting: a 5-7 day water fast, once a year.
- Smart Exercise: Instead of long endurance workouts seven days a week, opt for high-intensity interval training a few times per week. The most growth hormone optimization and benefits happen if you exercise while fasting and are boosted even more if you wait to eat 1-2 hours post-workout.
- Deep Sleep: The body recovers when you sleep, and in a fasted state also promotes self-healing in the form of autophagy. Optimizing sleep requires avoiding artificial light, vigorous exercise, large meals, caffeine, or general stress in the few hours before sleeping. Any of these will induce a cortisol spike, which competes with melatonin (the sleep hormone).
Longevity Boosting Nutrients and Foods:
This list isn’t exhaustive but contains some nutrients (and associated foods) linked to longevity.
- Proanthocyanidins: found in blueberries, cranberries, black currants, and plums.
- Resveratrol: Resveratrol is found in wine (which you should always consume cautiously) and only natural and organic. You want to avoid all California-made wines because they all contain glyphosate. American vineyards use irrigation, which unfortunately floods the grapes with chemicals. There are 76 chemicals permitted in American wines without requiring the winemakers to include them on the labels. These chemicals are not allowed in Europe).
- Polyphenols and flavonoids are found in dark chocolate (cacao), cloves, star anise, celery seed, black chokeberry, and flaxseed.
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a fatty acid found in the meat of cold-water fish. It is best taken in the form of whole fish because the fats are susceptible to heat, and so the processing of fish oil could make the oil more toxic than helpful. Stick to wild sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and salmon.
Things Shortening Your Telomeres:
- Toxins: create enormous amounts of oxidative stress and are detrimental to telomere health. These range from mercury and BPA’s to artificial scents and flavors. If it’s unnatural, odds are it’s not promoting longevity.
- Sustained overeating: caloric overload, inflammation, and spikes in your glucose reduce insulin sensitivity, and put a substantial burden on the system.
- Sustained under-eating: trigger a famine response, hormonal damage, and glucose spike as well. Long term caloric deprivation is just as detrimental to longevity (if not more) than chronic overeating.
- Too much exercise: the United States exercises more than any nation globally, and we are also the most overweight. Over-exercising causes hormonal imbalances, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Too much exercise can manifest itself as too many days per week or too long in duration (endurance style training). I’m not saying you should never go for a long run, but the science shows that endurance athletes are aging prematurely—so if longevity is important to you, keep that in mind.
- Consuming caffeine late in the day: interferes with deep (REM) sleep, which results in inflammation and oxidative stress. Exercising too late in the day or smoking marijuana before bed also hurts deep sleep.
Hopefully, this sheds some light on how to live long and how to spend those years in optimal health. Get your telomeres tested, and then use that information as fuel to implement these longevity-boosting habits. Re-test yourself in 6-12 months, so see the fruits of your labor!
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Dr. Daniel Pompa. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Pompa and his associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Dr. Pompa encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.