Telomeres are the end part of our genes. They can be considered the “time keepers” of our DNA, plus help to repair our DNA to keep it healthy. As we get older, our cells divide and when they divide, their telomeres get a little shorter every division. After a number of divisions, as you age, your telomeres get so short that they don’t function anymore, they don’t repair the DNA and cell division stops; and your life ends.
By slowing down the shortening of your telomeres, it is thought that you may be able to live longer. One of the phenomenons we have seen through recent studies is that longer telomeres make your heart healthier and extend your heart’s power.
Over the last two decades, researchers have been investigating the long-term connection between telomeres and heart health. They recently published their results and the results are amazing, very clear and conclusive.1
The study was in Denmark and included almost 20,000 people over 19 years. Published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology,1 the report is an eye opener.
They concluded that the people who had short telomeres had the following:
- 50% increased risk of heart attack
- 25% increased risk of early death
There are other studies confirming these heart health improving effects. One published in the same journal found an alarming increase in heart attack risk in those people who had short telomeres. Their results showed that people with short telomeres had an increased risk of heart disease between 280% and 320%! 2
These newly-reported results essentially confirm what other studies have revealed: that shorter telomeres increase your chances for heart disease. Moreover, your risk of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries also appears to be increased.
In another study published in the medical journal Lancet, researchers found an association between short telomeres and worsening atherosclerosis.3 Those with short telomeres had accelerated aging of their blood vessels and had a buildup of plaque within their arteries, also called atherosclerosis. This increased plaque “aged” them 8.6 years older. In other words their bodies were like a person’s body 8.6 years older than they were. Thus, heart disease can prematurely age you plus decrease your quality of life. If we can easily reverse these effects, perhaps you’d live better and longer.
In another study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers discovered that people with heart failure had telomeres that were 40% shorter than
Heart failure is associated with telomere shortening. When someone suffers from heart failure, this may be caused by death of certain cardiac cells, called “myocytes”. These are the muscle cells in your heart that are responsible for generating the electrical impulses that control your heart rate and keep your heart beating.
We now know that telomeres work behind the scenes to influence your heart and keep it healthy. All the studies listed above are evidence to suggest that when telomeres shorten, we see a worsening of heart health, also called heart disease.
Luckily, we now know there are multiple simple steps you can take that may not only protect the telomere function, but also have been shown to lengthen telomeres. And these may be the key to longevity, including building and maintaining a healthy heart for a longer time.
There is a way to keep the telomere length longer and to “tell” your cells to act and behave like younger cells. Your cells can be activated to produce an enzyme that keeps your telomeres long and could thus rebuild, regenerate and maintain your heart health. This enzyme is called telomerase. Telomerase is the “antidote” to aging and may be the key to reviving your heart’s energy, vitality and pumping power.
However, normally the DNA of your cells have “turned off” the formation of telomerase, so the aging process continues to happen as the telomeres shorten. Luckily, we now know that there are substances that can “turn on” your DNA to activate the formation and production of telomerase that can keep your telomere length longer. These substansesTelomerase activators come in many forms. One of the most recent discoveries comes from an extract of an ancient Chinese herb called Astragulus. Called TA65 (for Telomerase Activator 65), this compound has been shown to lengthen telomeres and thus potentially reverse some of the aging process that occurs naturally in all of us.
There are many other compounds that may activate telomerase activity. Resveratrol, which has been shown to be a strong antioxidant and immune booster, also appears to have strong action to lengthen telomere length.5 Vitamin E compounds, such as alpha tocopherol6 and gamma/mixed tocopherols7 are other antioxidants that appear to be able to lengthen telomeres.
Another vitamin with similar actions is the well-known vitamin C which was shown to slow down the loss of telomeres up to 62%, but higher doses than normal are needed to do antioxidant and telomere lengthening actions.
An amino acid that seems to have properties that can lengthen telomeres is Carnitine, plus it has been shown to reduce arterial plaque, lower LDL cholesterol, and increase HDL levels.9
Telomere science is the latest in anti-aging medicine. It may be the key to preventive medicine to help you live healthier, happier and longer. However, no one wants to live longer if their muscles are weak and they have poor habits. Thus, a good diet and regular exercise are imperative, and with telomerase activators, can potentially help you live a longer life with quality.
1.Weischer M, et al. Short telomere length, myocardial infarction, ischemic heart disease, and early death. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2012 Mar;32(3):82209.
2. Brouilette S, et al. White cell telomere length and risk of premature myocardial infarction. Aterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2003 May 1;23(5):842-6.
3. Samani NJ, et al. Telomere shortening in atherosclerosis. Lancet. 2001 Aug 11;358(9280):472-3.
4. van der Harst P, et al. Telomere length of circulating leukocytes is decreased in patients with chronic heart failure. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2007 Apr 3; 49(13):1459-64.
5. Wang XB, et al. Resveratrol-induced augmentation of telomerase activity delays senescence of endothelial progenitor cells. Chin Med J (Engl). 2011 Dec;124(24):4310-5.
6. Makpol S, Zainuddin A, Rahim NA, Yusof YA, Ngah WZ. Alpha-tocopherol modulates hydrogen peroxide-induced DNA damage and telomere shortening of human skin fibroblasts derived from differently aged individuals. Planta Med. 2010 Jun;76(9):869-75.
7. Suzana Makpol, et al. Gamma-Tocotrienol prevents oxidative stress-induced telomere shortening in human fibroblasts derived from different aged individuals. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 3(1); Jan-Feb 2010.
8. Furumoto K. et al. “Age-dependent telomere shortening is slowed down by enrichment of intracellular vitamin C via suppression of oxidative stress.” Life Science 1998, vol. 63, no. 11 pp. 935-48.
9. Borum RP and Bennett SG. Carnitine as an essential nutrient. Journal of American College of Nutrition. 1986; 5(2):177-182.