The search for longevity has been the holy grail of anti–ageing research. For thousands of years, the royalty and common people have yearned for a solution to mortality, or at least ageing.
The improved medical care has given us some longevity. However, that is still within human genetic limits. Modern science claims to have found some chemical ways to extend those barriers. So we are perhaps a generation away from achieving a long lifespan.
What concerns me is that the search is for a passive way: “Drink this potion, pop this pill, or undergo this treatment and you will have a long future”. There is no effort expected from the individual. But I will write about that in another article.
In this write-up, I will discuss a different but well-accepted way of achieving longevity: age reversal.
Longevity and age reversal appear to be the same thing, but there is a fundamental difference. Imagine that you are fifty years old. Longevity may extend your life from 80 years to 90 years; so you will live additional ten years, from ages 81 to 90.
Instead, if you have an age reversal of ten years just now, you will also live ten more years, but from ages 41 to 50. Which ten years would you rather have: your forties or your eighties?
Surely, there will be an overlap between the two: you may not live longer without becoming healthier. The technical term for that is healthspan, as against lifespan. The former means healthy years of life, not just any kind of life.
Would you like a simple way that will help you ‘reverse’ ageing? It will involve some active participation from you; there is no magic pill to pop. But you can embark upon it right now.
A Way To Define Ageing
There are many ways to define your age, all of which have some limitations. Some poetic folks even talk about age being just a number and you are only as old as you think you are. Tell that to insurance companies because their statistics don’t show much difference between the two.
Telomeres are repetitive DNA sequences found at the ends of our chromosomes. Each time a cell divides, our chromosomes replicate. In the process, a tiny bit of telomeres are lost. As we get older, the telomeres keep getting shorter and shorter and lead to gradual cell deterioration. Thus, they are highly correlated with age and act like our biological clocks. Knowing the telomere length, one can estimate the biological age of a person.
Read on this Website: Your genetic blueprint: Genome, chromosomes, DNA, and genes
Typical human telomeres are 5,000 to 15,000 base pairs long. Without going into technicalities, a base pair is a chemical unit in our DNA and usually breaks apart as a single unit shortening the telomere length.
Every year that we live, our telomeres shrink by about 25 base pairs. A shorter telomere length compared to the average length for one’s specific age group is associated with reduced lifespan and increased age-related diseases.
Telomere Length Reduction
There is no hundred per cent correlation between the telomere length and how long you will live (almost nothing in physiology does). But many factors that increase your chances of dying, such as obesity and smoking are found to reduce telomere length:
- Obese people have telomeres 250 base pairs shorter than their normal brethren. So being obese is equivalent to being ten (250 divided by 25) years older.
- If you smoke one pack of cigarettes a day for a year, i.e., you smoked one pack-year, it reduces 5 base pairs, on average. Add that up over your smoking years. Thirty years of two packs a day and you are behind by 300 (5 multiplied by 30 multiplied by 2) base pairs; i.e., you are older by twelve years. Of course, you are not chronologically older but your remaining life reduces, as if you are older by those many years.
So is there a way to increase telomere length? So far, we don’t know any. But we know a few ways to reduce telomere shortening. I will write about them in another article.
Here is one you can easily use: Aerobic exercise.
Telomere Length Preservation
A paper published by scientists at Brigham Young University in the journal Preventive Medicine correlated the extent of physical activity with telomere length.
They studied nearly 6,000 adults and categorised their physical activity levels into sedentary, low, moderate, and high.
High levels of physical activity meant more than 30 and 40 minutes of jogging for women and men, respectively, five days a week. Any other physical activity equivalent to this was also considered (using units called MET-minutes: how much intensity x how much time).
The researchers also measured their telomere lengths.
They found something stunning:
- Light physical activity was as bad as a sedentary lifestyle;
- Moderate exertion had little benefit; and
- A high level of physical activity gave a whopping nine-year advantage in body ageing, as indicated by telomere lengths.
The table below shows physical activity level versus years of reduced body ageing compared to a sedentary adult:
|Physical Activity Level||Body Aged Less By (Years)|
It is not clear why this telomere length preservation happens with exercise but researchers think that it may be because of the role of exercise in reducing oxidative stress or inflammation. Let scientists worry about that, while you and I undertake a high level of physical activity.
Incidentally, Mayo Clinic scientists have found that high-intensity aerobic training improves the protein synthesis mechanism in the body cells, which is a marker for ageing. As we age, our body becomes less capable of producing all the proteins that we need.
Do a minimum of thirty minutes of high-intensity exercises five times a week to get a decade-younger body.
To Read More
- On this Website: How to Prevent Ageing and Age-Related Diseases
- Inc.: Want to stay young longer? Science says this exercise makes your body act like it is 9 years younger
- Why I Exercise: Metabolic Equivalent
First published on: 27th November 2018
Image Credit: Image by Freepik
Last Updated on: 13th July 2023