What Can You do to Reduce Inflammation and Telomere Shortening? (Pt. II)

As we talked about in Part I of this series on telomeres, they’re the main focus of anti-aging and age-related illness research right now. The spotlight is on telomeres and their role in protecting us against cell mutations and other complications that occur during mitosis. And while many people are waiting on a miracle drug that will improve telomere length and health, it’s important to realize that’s a long way off. Instead, focus on what you can do for your telomeres right now. After all, you’re not getting any younger!

Focusing on telomere health means focusing on cellular health. Generally, what affects your cells will affect your telomeres. Cell division under duress is much more likely to encounter complications.

Take steps to eliminate stress

For starters, consider stress. As we mentioned in the previous article, stress is one of the biggest disruptors of telomeres. Cortisol prevents the body from producing telomerase, which means telomeres are unable to repair and replenish themselves properly after cell division. Conversely, lower cortisol levels won’t interfere as much with telomerase production. If you’re concerned about telomere length as a function of age and health, keep those stress levels low!

If you live or work in a high stress environment, find ways to vent your stress before it begins to take a toll on cellular health. For example, deep breathing exercises can help de-stress you in a tense situation, which may mean stopping cortisol production before it elevates. Similarly, doing yoga at home, spending time with a good book or meditating all have the power to relax the body, which reduces inflammation and pent up tension.

Fight inflammation through diet

Speaking of inflammation, it’s something you’ll need to focus on to help slow the rate of telomere attrition. If you haven’t heard by now, inflammation is at the heart of what’s killing us—everything from chronic illness to general wear on our bodies.

The fight against inflammation is a multi-faceted one. The simplest place to start is with diet. What we put into our bodies has a major impact on our inflammation levels. For example, choosing leafy greens and berries over fatty meats and cheeses has proven to reduce inflammation levels. For individuals battling arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, exempting gluten and dairy can have much the same effect.

The biggest contributor of inflammation in the modern diet is sugar. Sugar doesn’t just contribute to obesity—it create an addiction that dramatically alters our gut flora, producing inflammatory reactions any time we consume food. To kick inflammation, first you need to boot sugar from your diet.

Sleep tight every night

Another way to promote better cellular health is by getting a good night’s sleep. There’s evidence telomere and chromosome health benefit from the restorative power of sleep. Getting a full eight hours gives your body a chance to replenish and repair itself. Cells are able to divide smoothly and with less waste, and your body is able to process mitosis without extraneous energy, since sleep shuts everything else down.

Exercise and keep your body active

Staying engaged and active is a great way to boost telomere length and reduce inflammation that may affect telomeres. The endorphins released during exercise can rejuvenate cells and reduce cortisol levels in the body, benefitting cellular health.

Strive for low-impact exercise wherever possible, like swimming or cycling. If you’re a runner, try to mix up your running cadence to avoid overwork and stress injuries, or run on a semi-cushioned surface like a track. Cardio is the best remedy for endorphins, but strength training can also help release that much-needed burst to help stimulate positive cell health.

As an added bonus, exercising can also help you get a better night’s sleep and it’ll boost your mood, making you less prone to stress and anxiety that might contribute to telomere shortening.

Be mindful of your telomeres

Even though you can’t see them, your telomeres are worth paying attention to. You can’t measure them (unless you’re part of an ongoing study), so it’s up to every individual to stay mindful of them and stake steps toward living a healthy, stress-free, active life. That means eating right, exercising, being mindful of stress and making good lifestyle decisions.

There may come a future where telomere health is something we can measure and track at home, in our everyday lives. Scientists may even find a medication or supplement that aids in telomere lengthening by stimulating telomerase production. Until that time, it’s all we can do to live our best lives.

Evan DeMarco

Evan DeMarco is a leading sports medicine and nutrition expert, published author, public speaker and frequent guest on television, radio, and digital platforms.

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