Should we stop the aging process
Stopping the aging process, is that possible - and how?
Stay young forever and never die. Many people have this wish. Accordingly, research is in full swing when it comes to the aging process. However, it has not yet succeeded in fully deciphering it and accordingly slowing it down or even stopping it. Nevertheless, science has already gained some knowledge about aging and has definitely identified measures to positively influence it.
Telomeres play a key role in aging
Although they have not yet fully understood the role of telomeres, researchers are now certain that they play a key role in aging. The so-called telomeres are a kind of "protective cap" that is placed over the ends of the chromosomes. During cell division, which is known to take place in the body, the DNA is copied over and over again. However, a piece of the telomeres is lost every time. If these are too short at some point, there will be more disturbances in the copying of the DNA during cell division. So there is a loss of genetic information and it is precisely this that leads to the aging process, as can be observed in every person sooner or later. The specific point in time at which this aging begins, however, varies depending on the person and even depending on the cell. From these findings, however, it can be deduced that aging occurs later and progresses more slowly the longer these telomeres are (still).
Various factors affect the telomeres
The length of the telomeres varies from birth. His genetic make-up predestines a person for faster or slower aging. For example, the researchers were able to find that children tend to have longer telomeres when they have older fathers. Nevertheless, there are many external factors which in the course of life can lead to the telomeres being broken down more quickly. Even those who had longer "protective caps" at the beginning can accordingly overtake people with shorter telomeres. The way of life is therefore more important than the role of the genetic make-up when it comes to the aging process - at least that is the current assumption in science. The cell division process is adversely affected, for example, by smoking, poor nutrition, lack of exercise or other unhealthy habits. Conversely, this is good news because it means that the aging process can actually be influenced. It is not (yet) possible to stop this completely. But everyone can take measures to age more slowly and healthily.
Live longer and stay healthier: Telomeres give hope
Such measures can therefore help to maintain the telomeres longer and thereby protect the cells. As soon as these are no longer protected by the "caps", they have increasing problems with unwinding their genetic program. This not only entails the problem that genetic information is lost and people age (faster). Numerous diseases can also arise from such a faulty or incomplete copy of the DNA. Cancer is the best example of this: there are numerous studies on cancer cells and telomeres. They came to the exciting discovery that the so-called telomerase plays a decisive role in the excessive cell division that occurs in cancer. This is an enzyme that has been found in unusually high concentrations in cancer cells. Normally, however, telomerase inhibits cell division and thus the aging process of the cells. That is why it is often called the "immortality enzyme". If the scientists succeed in working specifically with this telomerase, it might one day cure cancer or stop aging.
Actively counteract the aging process
Such scenarios are still a long way off, but the research results are already sufficient to contribute to a slower and healthier aging process. As already mentioned, there are measures that the studies have shown can protect the telomeres. This means a lower risk of diseases like cancer and a longer life with fewer "optical" traces of aging - which is also important to many people. Positive effects can be achieved both inside and outside. These measures include:
- Movement (HIT training)
It is well known that a lot of exercise is important for health. However, it has now also been determined that sufficient exercise has a positive effect on the telomeres. Because the telomerase is activated by sporting activities and thus the cells stay "young" longer. Moderate endurance training is particularly effective, as is so-called HIIT training. This is the High Intensity Interval Training, during which you train for around ten to 20 minutes at the highest intensity. This is recommended around three times a week, each with a day's break, so that the training can have an optimal effect. Endurance sports can have the same effects on the telomeres, but must be exercised for significantly longer.
With regard to meditation, too, science has been able to identify remarkable effects when it comes to the aging process. Accordingly, regular meditation increases the telomerase level in the cells. This reaction can be observed especially in the brain cells, so that meditation can also counteract diseases such as dementia. Especially when it comes to mental fitness, meditation can have a positive effect on the aging process.
- Mediterranean diet
Diet has also been shown to have effects on the length of the telomeres. According to the current state of research, a Mediterranean diet is therefore recommended. This is based on lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Carbohydrates are only consumed in small amounts. Instead, berries, legumes and freshly caught fish are on the menu. This gives the body important nutrients such as vitamin D for healthy bones, zeaxanthin and luthein for healthy eyes, B vitamins for healthy cognitive function and fatty acids for (better) cell protection. However, it depends on the quality of the food, because fresh fish in particular often contains rancid fatty acids. Dietary supplements such as vitamin E can therefore also be useful to protect the body from oxidation or other undesirable side effects of the food. A balanced and healthy diet, in combination with sensible food supplements, can also slow down the aging process.
- Sun protection
Finally, it is important to protect the body from harmful UV radiation. Because skin aging begins as early as the third decade of life and is largely (also) caused by excessive exposure to the sun. Ultimately, UV radiation penetrates so deeply into the skin cells that it can cause considerable damage there - in terms of collagen, but also in relation to the telomeres. Cell division cannot repair this damage, but rather becomes defective more quickly. Such effects can not only be observed after sunburn. Instead, they appear in the skin after any form of UV exposure. Sufficient sun protection is therefore essential even in winter months or on days that appear to be "sun-free".
In view of the latest research findings, it seems quite realistic that the aging process could one day be stopped. But there is still a long way to go. Nevertheless, knowledge about aging and the measures that can slow it down has increased steadily over the past few years. So every person has to a certain extent in their own hands how quickly and healthily they age. Even simple changes in habits can have great effects and extend a healthy life. The telomeres also offer an exciting field of research for the future.
They were even able to confirm some wisdom that has persisted in the past - but for which there has been no evidence. The fact that sunburns age faster is also part of it, as is the myth about the "Methuselah gene". This already referred to those people who were unusually old. This included, for example, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe at 82 years of age, which was above average at the time. Nowadays it can be said that he probably had very long telomeres and a corresponding way of life. It has also long been known that certain vital substances and nutrients have a positive effect on aging. Still, it remains exciting to see what further findings and explanations the future will bring about telomeres and aging in general.
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