Can You Predict How Healthfully You'll Age?

Can You Predict How Healthfully You’ll Age?

Did you know that the length of your telomeres may be a predictor of how healthy you will age? What the heck is a telomere, you ask? Telomeres are compound structures found at the end of your chromosomes that protect the ends from becoming frayed or tangled. Our bodies are constantly undergoing cell division and each time a cell divides, the telomeres become slightly shorter. Telomeres naturally shorten by 1% annually from birth to death.1 Eventually, they become so short that the cell can no longer divide successfully, and the cell either dies (known as apoptosis), leads to senescence (aging) or creates oncogenic transformation of somatic cells (changes healthy cells into tumors and potentially, cancer), affecting the health and lifespan of an individual. Accelerated telomere shortening is associated with early onset of many age-associated health problems, including coronary heart disease, heart failure, diabetes, increased cancer risk and osteoporosis.2 Telomere attrition is associated with decreased life expectancy and increased risk of chronic disease.3

The good news is that the rate of telomere shortening and excessive telomere attrition can be decreased by specific lifestyle factors. Studies suggest that diets rich in antioxidants such as vitamins E, C, D, and B12, high folate and beta-carotene have great potential to reduce the rate of telomere shortening, leading to delayed onset of age-associated diseases and increased lifespan.2,4 Telomere length is also positively associated with the consumption of legumes, nuts, seaweed, fruits and (get ready for this…) coffee. Foods such as tuna, salmon, herring, mackerel, halibut, anchovies, cat-fish, grouper, flounder, flax seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, kiwi, black raspberries, lingonberry (I have no idea what a lingonberry is), green tea, broccoli, sprouts, red grapes, tomatoes, and other vitamin-rich foods are a good source of antioxidants.2These antioxidants can potentially protect telomeric DNA from oxidative damage and may help lower one’s risk of various cancers.

Exercise is also key to protecting your telomeres. Exercise can help reduce harmful fat and mobilize waste products for faster elimination, leading to reduced oxidative stress and preservation of DNA and telomeres. And those of you who know me well, know I’m always preaching about the benefits of sleep. Well, research suggests that people who get less than 5 hours of sleep per night have shortened telomeres. (So, get those Zzzzz and lengthen those telomeres!)

Conversely, and not surprisingly, lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, stress, consumption of unhealthy diet (alcohol, red meat or processed meat) and environmental factors can increase the pace of telomere shortening, leading to illness and/or premature death.

But guess what? (Those of you who read my blogs know what’s coming…)

Acupuncture has been found to increase the length of DNA telomeres, leading to a longer life.  Studies suggest that acupuncture on acupoint Stomach 36 (one of my favorite points and used in 90% of my treatments) increased the telomere levels up to more than 2 times their telomere levels prior to the treatment, depending on the method of treatment, but frequently increases were between 60% to 100%.1

Let’s grow together, shall we?


  1. Omura, Yoshiaki, et al. “Estimation of the amount of telomere molecules in different human age groups and the telomere increasing effect of acupuncture and shiatsu on St. 36, using synthesized basic units of the human telomere molecules as reference control substances for the bi-digital O-ring test resonance phenomenon.” Acupuncture & electro-therapeutics research23.3-4:185-206, 1998.
  2. Shammas MA. Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011 Jan;14(1):28-34. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32834121b1. PMID: 21102320; PMCID: PMC3370421.
  3. Sanders J.L., Newman A.B. Telomere length in epidemiology: A biomarker of aging, age-related disease, both, or neither?Epidemiol. Rev.2013;35:112–131. doi: 10.1093/epirev/mxs008
  4. Tucker LA. Serum and Dietary Folate and Vitamin B12Levels Account for Differences in Cellular Aging: Evidence Based on Telomere Findings in 5581 U.S. Adults. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2019 Oct 7;2019:4358717. doi: 10.1155/2019/4358717. PMID: 31687079; PMCID: PMC6800923.

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