Telomeres are small protective bulbs found on the ends of DNA strands. Like plastic on the end of a rope, they protect chromosome strands from damage and fraying. However, telomeres shorten over time and indicate cellular aging. Nutritional and lifestyle factors can decrease the shortening of telomeres, and therefore, the biological aging process.

DNA is a double-helix chain of bound molecules (it looks like a twisted ladder). DNA is further twisted and bound up to create a chromosome, and chromosomes are found inside the nucleus of every single cell of your body. Your cells are important to your body because they make up everything that your physical body is. There are heart cells, lung cells, skin cells, muscle cells, eye cells, etc. New cells are constantly being created while the old ones die. During that cell copying process, and over time, telomeres get shorter and your body ages.

Lifestyle choices have a great effect on your telomeres. Smoking, stress, a poor diet, obesity, and not exercising can further degenerate your telomere length and age your body at a faster rate than normal. The good news, however, is that you can prevent this accelerated telomere shortening and perhaps even repair them by making positive lifestyle choices.

Stop smoking. It is worth the effort to try. Try practicing mindfulness, meditation, or simply doing something you love to do on a regular basis to avoid excessive stress. Include more fruits and vegetables into your diet and avoid boxed, pre-prepared foods. It is worth the effort to spend time in the kitchen preparing your meals. It is recommended to exercise for an hour at least three times a week, preferably five times a week, even if you do not need to lose weight. Doing these things, among many other positive lifestyle practices, can decrease premature telomere shortening and increase your chances of living longer with fewer health problems along the way. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3370421/

Molly Roemer graduated with a degree in dietetics from BYU and currently resides in Alamo. She enjoys food and family and seeks to enrich the lives of others through both. Email questions or comments to roemermolly@gmail.com.