Slow Down Aging: Preserve Your Telomeres

For this week’s post we are going to change it up and pull excerpts from an intriguing article written by Michael Downey.  It is on the subject of telomeres which can best be described as caps on the end of your DNA, and how important it is to preserve them as long as possible.  The topic has fascinated me for some time now, so I thought I would share.  Enjoy.

“Telomeres are protective DNA molecules. Often compared to the plastic caps on the ends of shoelaces, telomeres are found on the ends of coiled pieces of DNA known as chromosomes. They keep the chromosome material from deteriorating.

Every time chromosomes divide, the telomeres at the ends shorten.  The eventual shortening of telomeres is correlated with aging.  Ultimately, the telomeres become so depleted that the cell can no longer divide, and that cell dies (aka apoptosis).

Scientists have made an alarming discovery: higher stress levels can cause accelerated shortening of telomeres.  In a recently published study, researchers found that depression related stress results in the significant shortening of telomeres (the caps at the ends of chromosomes) an indication of accelerated aging.

The publication of this study emphasizes the importance of minimizing the impact of internal and environmental stress on the body.  An estimated 75-90% of visits to primary care physicians are now related to the effects of stress, and this new study documents how lethal stress can be to our well-being and longevity.

STRESS-INDUCED HOMEOSTATIC IMBALANCE

Homeostasis is the ability and tendency of a body to maintain harmonious equilibrium by constantly readjusting its physiological processes.  Cells and tissues exist in a constantly changing environment—homeostasis steers internal biochemical levels back to near-optimum points.

Physical and emotional stress triggers a cascade of biochemical changes, causing homeostatic imbalance.  This interruption in homeostasis helps us prepare for dangerous external situations. (Essentially it is an activation of the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system which we have discussed numerous times before.)  These changes are supposed to be moderate, infrequent, and short-term.  Ordinarily, after a stressor has passed, our system adjusts—raising and lowering different biochemical levels—returning the body to homeostasis.

In today’s world, our feedback mechanisms become overwhelmed by the extent, duration, intensity, frequency, or multiple layering of stress.  This produces an excessive or prolonged homeostatic imbalance (sympathetic overdrive).  Studies have even found that these harmful effects can persist long after a stressful situation has been normalized.

The result can be a multitude of physical and mental diseases, including permanent organ damage, DNA effects, and the physical changes associated with aging.

Some of the many disease states associated with stress-induced homeostatic imbalance include obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, gastric ulcer, cancer, gastrointestinal complaints, skin issues, neurological disorders, sexual dysfunction, psychological problems, suppressed immunity, decreased memory, predisposition to Alzheimer’s,  and shortened telomeres; and, as a result, accelerated cellular and tissue aging.

PROTECTION FROM THE DAMAGING EFFECTS OF STRESS

Adaptogens are a pharmacological group of compounds that metabolically support the ability of an organism to respond appropriately to stress, preserve structure and function from the damaging effects of stress, and hasten recovery of homeostasis.

When combined, adaptogens work together to modulate the multiple pathways of stress.  The multiple benefits include improved mental and physical performance, reduced incidence of chronic disease, and increased longevity.  Scientists investigated numerous extracts—some used for thousands of years to treat various stress-related symptoms.

This research led to four potent adaptogens that can provide a united defense against the multiple cellular pathways of chronic stress:

Holy Basil

Bacopa

Cordyceps

Ashwagandha”

Telomeres, stress, anti-aging; I think you’d agree that this is truly fascinating stuff.  Of course we all know that prolonged stress is a negative thing and ideally we would like to rid ourselves of it.

You can begin to do this by addressing those chronic physical stressors in our bodies.  This involves combatting those nagging injuries and poor posture, as well as cleaning up that inflammatory diet; both of which cause constant physical and chemical stress.

You also want to make sure your nervous system is functioning at an optimal level so that you can deal with stress appropriately when it does inevitably arise.  Being checked by a physician who utilizes functional neurology is a solid way to keep that sympathetic nervous system in check.  In addition, there is various supplemental and herbal support that can assist on an individual basis.

If you have any questions about any of this or would like to take action towards removing the stressors from your life, please call and schedule an appointment today.

 

You can find this article in it’s entirety, as well as all of the associated references at: http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2012/jun2012_New-Reason-Avoid-Stress_01.htm.

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