Death is inevitable. The ultimate truth. But an even greater truth is Life. And what matters is how that life is lived. Longevity no longer means just adding years to that number called “age”. It also signifies the quality of those years, free from disease, full of vitality and energy.
Age also has this adroit quality of catching up with our bodies, our skin, our organs, our functioning and our cognitive abilities, stealthily like in a game of “hide n seek”, where before we know it we are “caught”.
Today, research has proved beyond doubt that though genetics play a tactile role in how quickly we age, that is purely a culture, a starter. What gets handed down to us when we are born. But what we make out of what has been given to us is purely in our control. Our regulation has a 90% bearing on how we age and how quickly we approach disease and death.
While this is good news to the determined ones in our fraternity, the others also need to accept the undeniable responsibility this places in our hands for our own health and the fact that there will be no justifiable excuse that will override our lapses and trade-offs that we decide to make with our health. Because genetics play only a 10% role in ageing and disease.
Telomeres are bunches of DNA structures at the end of our chromosomes very much like the hair that gets tied at the end of a plait secured with a band. As we age the length of the telomeres shorten until finally one day, the hair at the end of the plait has completely frayed away leaving the chromosome exposed and unprotected.
So the trick to reversing age lies in doing everything within our might to protect these telomeres which apparently maintain our clock!! The Factors which affect Aging!! Exercise: Exercise is shown to increase the length of the telomeres, the right intensity and duration of exercise that’s right for you, where your recovery is perfect. Under exercise or over-exercising will not produce the deemed benefits. So invest in the kind of exercise you enjoy doing be it swimming, running, yoga or weights. A word of caution: Listen to your body, it will tell you what kind of exercise is working for you. The co-relation between lengthening your telomeres and exercising in the middle age years seems to be the strongest! So it’s never too late to begin
Stress: We know is the biggest killer. So do everything you can in your might to allow the stress to peak just enough to drive you and keep the happy adrenalin rush. “Me time” and sleep are indispensable ingredients in the recipe to keep your telomeres long!
Amongst women the duration of sleep even if slightly compromised doesn’t affect the ageing process as much as the quality of sleep but men are greatly affected by the duration of sleep too!! But let’s go across the board and say that everyone needs a good 6.5-7.5 hours of quality sleep every single night! Respect what ELSE you need to bring that skip in your step and carve out time in your days for just that. Meet friends, shop, holiday read, fish or even watch movies all alone, if that’s what makes you happy!
Oxidative stress and Inflammation: Strongly implicated in the process of ageing and shortening of the precious telomeres. Smoking and obesity are top of the list factors that can accelerate oxidative stress and inflammation, initiate free radical damage and open the doors wide to hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.
Whatever pleasure uncontrolled eating and inhaling of all that nicotine and hydrogen cyanide brings, it’s is not worth your wellness and chances to live life king size!!
Antioxidants are a must to counteract free radical damage and keep our cells healthy. Astaxanthin, resveratrol, vitamin C, vitamin E, CoQ10, Alpha lipoic acid, and glutathione are powerful antioxidants found in food and in supplement form.
Astaxanthin found liberally in salmon and algae, in fact, triggers the gene FOX03 in humans that is strongly interlinked with longevity and youth!
Fruits and veggies of diverse colours included in your daily routine in your treasure chest to daily natural supplementation of antioxidants, 5-6 servings of these per day are ideal.
Poor circadian cycles: Your circadian cycle is your internal clock that determines your sleep and wake-up cycle. The duration of sleep, the quality of sleep and the time at which you allow your body that long repair through night sleep is equally important.
Sleep at 3 am, wake up at 10 am: Incorrect timings
Sleep at 9 am, wake up at 2 am: Not adequate
Sleep at 10:30 am, wake up at 6 am: Ideal
Sleep at 12 am, wake up at 7: Adequate
The body naturally repairs itself, muscles relax, blood pressure drops giving your heart a break, growth hormones are released to help tissue and muscle growth.
All of this naturally improves the length of your telomeres, greatly slowing down the ageing process.
Processed Meat: Not the heavily implicated gluten or dairy, it’s processed meat that has shown to directly shorten telomere length and thus accelerate ageing!
Organic culture: Pesticides and chemicals used to prevent decay in farm and agricultural produce increase oxidative damage to the body and peaks inflammation as the body works hard to eliminate these harsh toxins from the system. Hence shifting to organic produce can keep us looking and feeling young well into our “ageing” years!!
Age is just a number, it keeps ruffling the calendar sheets month by month adding on years as we live, acquire wisdom, make mistakes, trip, fall, rise and watch others do just the same.
Science tells us stories, stories of how we can preserve our health, how we can live longer lives to explore the world even more, how we can add life to our years, stories that prove what we already know about our sleep and stress and the importance of rest. Now it’s upto our karma to make these stories own, to repeat their happy endings to ourselves, to pass the legacy to our children to allow ourselves to live longer, healthier, happier.
By Anupama Menon
Nutritionist and Food Coach
Anupama Menon is a nutritionist and food coach based in Mumbai and Bangalore offering sustainable nutritional plans with 3 chEATs per week. To book an appointment call 9902060225 or follow her on Instagram @iamanupamamenon