Want to defend your body against the ravages of stress and at the same time slow down your aging? Then get healthy!
In a totally uplifting and encouraging report, scientists found that adhering to the “three pillars” of healthy living – staying physically active, getting adequate sleep, and eating right – was a powerful antidote at the cellular level for life’s greatest stressors (job loss, death of loved ones, etc.) and tied to longer telomeres.
Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes felt to be the most reliable indicator of aging at the cellular level. The longer your telomeres, the more “life” your cells have (i.e. the younger your cells are) and vice-a-versa. Shorter telomeres go hand in hand with aging and age-related chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
For this study scientists followed 239 older women for one year. Over the one-year study period, the women provided periodic updates of the diets, activity levels, sleep, and major life stressors. Study subjects who did not regularly adhere to the three pillars of healthy living experienced significantly greater shortening of their telomeres (greater cellular aging) after major stressful events. In sharp contrast, women who ate well got good sleep, and remained active did not experience shortening of their telomeres when exposed to the same levels of stress.
The scientist commented that this study is one of the first to show how lifestyle changes may favorably affect our cells at the genetic level – safeguarding the body against the litany of diseases attributed to excessive stress. I have no doubt that healthy living is the universal life preserver! (Molecular Psychiatry, July 2014)
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