The Tips that Protect

We inherit our genes from our parents. That genetic material is stored in our cells in chromosomes. Like the plastic tips on shoelaces, each end of our chromosomes is protected by tips called telomeres. We have the ability to delay age-related disease and slow the process of our aging by protecting those tips.

Telomeres get shorter as we get older, and when they get too short, it leads to deterioration, disease, and death. The good news is that we can do things to help keep our telomeres long and intact.

According to a National Institutes of Health publication, a “better choice of diet and activities has great potential to reduce the rate of telomere shortening” ( That’s yet another reason to pay attention to the foods we eat.

Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn suggested in a recent interview with AARP to do “exercise, do really interesting activities, don’t have long-term chronic stress” (AARP Bulletin, January-February 2017, p. 44).

Be encouraged to stay physically active. Pick something you like or can do, like walking or doing housework or going to the gym. Blackburn says studies show “the more types of exercise you did, the better the results.”

Another way to avoid telomeres wearing down is to avoid constant stress. That may difficult for people who are caretakers of aging parents or special needs children. Whether or not you’re in a stressful environment that cannot be avoided, what works is regular meditation practice.

Protecting your telomeres is possible through a healthier diet, a range of physical activities, and meditating. These lifestyle habits can do a lot to keep our telomeres long. Knowing that we can influence our health and longevity should give us further incentive to maintain as healthy a lifestyle as possible. Let’s do what we can to protect the tips that protect us.

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