As reported in the online resource PLoS ONE, a cross-sectional analysis of the now-classic Nurses’ Health Study done by Qi Sun, M.D of the Harvard School of Public Health and colleagues found that women who led healthy lifestyles had longer telomeres than those who didn’t. Telomeres are buffers on the ends of chromosomes that help keep the chromosomes from deteriorating during cell division. If telomeres become too short, cellular senescence, or old age, can result. Previous research has shown that artificial lengthening of telomeres in laboratory mice and worms has successfully reversed signs of aging. The studies have never been replicated in humans, but Dr Sun’s work suggests that we don’t need to wait for a science fiction style medical miracle to keep our telomeres from shortening over time. Instead, all we have to do is buy into the healthy practices we all know by now are good for us.
As Dr. Sun and his colleagues wrote in their conclusion: “Adherence to a healthy lifestyle, defined by major modifiable risk factors, was associated with longer telomere length.” Why not commit right now to making any changes in your health habits that have room for improvement? But don’t overwhelm your good intentions by trying to do everything at once. Pick one area as a starting place and work on that until you’re successful. Then move on to another goal. Before you know it, you’ll be living the long telomere lifestyle and giving yourself the best chance possible of a celebrating many more healthy birthdays to come!