You may not have heard of telomeres but they play an important role in the ageing process. Telomeres are essentially ‘protective caps’ on the end of our chromosomes and they are the part of chromosomes that control ageing. As we grow older, telomeres become shorter and shorter due to cell division. A lack of exercise, stress and a poor diet can shorten telomeres even further. So, how do telomeres contribute to the ageing process and what can we do to protect them?

How do telomeres contribute to the ageing process?

Essentially, as telomeres become shorter and shorter, they become too short to divide any further, which makes them either; inactive, causes them to die, or, to shorten even further which is a dangerous process. As cells lose telomeres, it results in the body slowing down. The shortening process has also been linked to cancer and other diseases. Studies have shown that those with shorter telomeres have a greater risk of dying than those with longer telomeres.

We also need to consider telomerase – this is an enzyme that lengthens and protects telomeres, however, levels of telomerase are reduced with constant cell division.

How can we protect telomeres?

To lengthen telomeres, there are a few things we can do;

  • Reduce stress levels – stress is a known factor for contributing to the shortening of telomeres, thus promoting the ageing process. By controlling stress and reducing our stress levels, we can help to lengthen telomeres.
  • Participate in regular exercise – exercising regularly not only increases your energy levels and boosts your mood, it also helps to lengthen your telomeres. Studies have shown that those who partake in regular exercise have longer telomeres than those who don’t.
  • Eat a balanced diet – consuming a diet rich in antioxidants and vitamins can prevent cell damage. This means looking and feeling younger!
Image: istock.com/Rost-9D

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