Some years ago we became aware of the important role of telomeres in aging, and the role of stress in speeding up the aging process. Telomeres are genetic components that are linked to biological aging. Usually, the older you are the shorter your telomeres become.
What did this have to do with resilience? Well, resilience controls stress, and it turns out that higher levels of stress result in increased shortening of telomeres. So your calendar age is not the only determinant of how old your cells are. Stress is a highly significant influence.
In fact, women who reported being highly stressed were biologically, as indexed by telomere length, about ten years older than those who did not report high stress.
In one of our early resilience workshops, one person in the group asked an obvious question that hadn’t occurred to us. “Is there anything that can enable us to lengthen our telomeres?” We paused, and had to say that we did not know.
Since that time, a good deal of research has shown that we can indeed lengthen our telomeres through lifestyle changes.
We were working on our usual exhaustive examination of the scientifically respectable evidence that people can lengthen their telomeres when we discovered the following interview of Dr. Dean Ornish, who recently completed a study on how the telomeres can be lengthened. We decided to re-post his video, which does a very good job of explaining what we need to do to lengthen our telomeres. We weren’t likely to improve, in a short post, on what he says in this interview. And it isn’t just a promotion of his own work; he talks about a wide range or research pointing in the same direction as his.
It appears that telomeres can indeed be lengthened, and that well established healthy lifestyle changes can produce the lengthening.
Naturally attempts are being made to develop a kind of “Fountain of Youth” pill that can lengthen telomeres. We would recommend that such pills be viewed with great caution. It’s one thing to do things we already know are good for you and thus lengthen telomeres and quite another to take a new pill that needs lengthy testing.
As we have pointed out previously in this blog, the body is a highly complex, interactive ecosystem. Change one thing and many other unpredictable changes are likely to occur. The enzyme, telomerase stimulates growth of telomeres. But there is a lot of telomerase in certain malignant tumors. So who can say what kinds of side effects might result from artificial tampering?
On the other hand, sensible exercise, eating a healthy diet, learning to live peacefully with others, and calming ourselves through meditation have been around for centuries, and we know that their side effects improve lives