Health & Fitness

Want to look younger and healthier? Protect those telomeres

It may all be in your telomeres.

A book co-authored by a 2009 Nobel Prize winner says that those shoelace-looking things at the end of your chromosomes determine how and when you begin to show signs of aging. They may be why some people look and behave younger than others who are chronologically the same age.

In the new book, The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer, biologist Elizabeth Blackburn and psychologist Elissa Epel detail ways the average Joe or Jane can protect their telomeres — and possibly feel better.

Blackburn won the Nobel Prize for her work showing the role of telomeres in disease and aging. Telomeres, which have been likened to the cap at the end of a shoelace, protect the genetic material inside your DNA. People with longer telomeres have lower death rates from cancers and some diseases, but these telomeres tend to shorten as we age. Certain lifestyle factors also speed up their shortening.

Which is why Blackburn and Epel want to assure readers that there are steps to keep those telomeres long and sturdy.

“The telomeres are long and robust in healthier older people, and they’re more likely to get crumbled away and eroded away in people who are more susceptible to diseases at earlier ages,” Blackburn told HuffPost’s The Scope in a Facebook Live interview.

Not surprisingly, the telomere-protecting habits are what your mother — and doctor — have long advised you to do. Think positively. Practice meditation. Eat a plant-based diet. Get enough sleep. Such practices can slow down or even reverse the inevitable damage of aging.

“The world around us is incredibly important in its influence on our telomeres. That was one of the shocking things that the research and lots of studies have found,” Blackburn said in a CBS interview.

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