Wednesday, May 17, 2017
The Telomere Effect & Healthy Aging
I've just started reading a new book I borrowed from my local library called The Telomere Effect by Nobel Prize Winner Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD and Elissa Epel, PhD. Pronounced tee-low-mere, these little end caps on our DNA are greatly responsible for the quality of the lives we lead. We, in effect, wear down these caps, however long or short there are to begin with, with each day we live. They are necessary for cell division as they kind of hold things together when the DNA replicates itself when the cell divides. Our old cells die and are replaced constantly by new cells. Telomeres also contribute small pieces of themselves in the process to keep our DNA from becoming damaged. There are many things about the length of our telomeres that we can control. Some we cannot. "Genetics loads the gun, environmental factors pull the trigger". Scientists have discovered that we have more control over the way we look and feel than we thought.
There are ways we keep our telomeres stable and possibly build them back up. First on my personal list is exercise. I'm making an effort to participate in water aerobics classes. I'm starting with twice a week with the goal of three one hour work-outs per week. With MS it can be difficult to get to the gym. In my 30's I squeezed an exercise bike into the bedroom of my small apartment. In my 40's and 50's I worked out at a Curves salon. I believe it's the way I've been able to stay on my feet this long. I also work outside in my garden and even push the lawnmower around. I do my grocery shopping and carry heavy bags every week. I don't have a housekeeper and so far, nobody has volunteered to clean the bathtub.
This book does not reveal an instant fountain of youth but the status of our telomeres helps explain why some of us stay healthy into old age and some of us age more rapidly. More to come.