At present, the increase in life expectancy together with the trend of population aging in most developed countries has led science to be more interested than ever in unraveling the keys to good health in the third age.
One of the most defended theories about what determines the health of a person as they age is the one that focuses on the telomeres: a kind of ‘hoods’ that protect the ends of our chromosomes.
What are telomeres and how do they protect us?
As explained by the medical news portal Medical News TodayInside our cells we have 23 pairs of chromosomes, which are small structures made up of deoxyribonucleic acid wound around certain proteins. At their ends are long segments of repetitive DNA and proteins that do not code for genes: the telomeres. Its function is to protect chromosomes from certain types of damage.
In fact, every time a cell divides, the chromosomes replicate and telomeres shorten. For this reason, scientists believe that they could keep the keys to aging better: the greater its length, the more times a cell can divide without losing vital genes. At a certain point, the telomeres are too short, causing the cell to become senescent (lose the ability to divide). This idea seems to be supported by the results of certain studies carried out on animals, in which it has been found that less long-lived species have shorter telomeres.
Even an experiment on mice (whose results were published in the specialized media Nature Communications) selectively bred to have especially long telomeres found that animals with this characteristic showed lower cholesterol levels and better glucose and insulin tolerance. Indeed, they lived longer than average and They had lower incidences of cancer.
How to protect telomeres?
In this line, there are investigations that have found a series of risk factor’s predicting telomere shortening. These would include a sedentary lifestyle, tobacco use, insufficient sleep, stress, depression, and certain genetic mutations.
Notably, all of these conditions and habits have also been linked to elevated levels of inflammationwhich in turn has not only been related to the shortening of telomeres but also to a good number of diseases that tend to appear linked to aging.
Conversely, a good number of healthy habits seem to be correlated with longer telomere length such as maintaining a Mediterranean diet, frequent physical activity, reduced stress levels, abstaining from tobacco or adequate rest. Everything seems to suggest, therefore, that the secret to taking care of our telomeres and thus increasing the chances of a long and healthy life would lie in maintaining these kinds of habits.
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