Reversing the Aging Process: A Closer Look at Telomeres
Aging seems to be an inescapable part of life…spines shrink, skin wrinkles, and attention spans dissipate. But what if aging was escapable — or at least reversible? What if scientists were able to target the root cause of aging in our very own cells and treat it as if it were an illness?
Researchers in Israel have conducted the world’s first study to prove that biological aging can be reversed. Through the targeted application of a unique hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) protocol, scientists were able to reverse the biological aging process in adults aged 64 and older. These findings are truly groundbreaking given the accessibility of hyperbaric oxygen treatment, however, Aviv Clinics in central Florida is the only center in the United States to offer this unique HBOT treatment protocol.
So how did these researchers manage to accomplish such a seemingly impossible task that existed only in science fiction just 50 years ago? The answer lies in telomeres, a critical component of your DNA.
What Are Telomeres?
Telomeres are essential components of a human cell that affect how our bodies age.
Understanding the role that telomeres play in your DNA is essential to understanding
(and reversing) the biological aging process. So let’s start with the basics.
DNA is a commonly understood component of human biology. Yet many of us do not go through life consciously thinking about the ways that our DNA functions. Let’s change that!
Your DNA contains the biological instructions necessary for your body to continue developing. There are millions upon millions of cellular processes occurring within a human body at any given time. DNA is essentially the manager of all of these processes — calmly instructing your cells to divide, consume, and produce complex proteins in order to stay alive. That’s where telomeres come into play. DNA sequences have beginnings and ends, which are capped off with an additional protective layer of DNA, also known as telomeres. Simply put, telomeres are simply the end-parts of your DNA.
Telomeres and Shoelaces
The term telomere (tel-uh-meer) draws from the Greek words “telos” and “meros.” Telos means “end,” while meros means “part.”
Telomeres work much like the hardened end caps of your shoelace. Those hardened end caps on your shoelace protect the delicate strings they are connected to. Without those protective caps, a shoelace can quickly come frayed and unusable. But as long as those protective caps persist, a shoelace can stay intact for quite some time — much like telomeres prevent damage from occurring to your underlying DNA. With intact telomeres, your cells are protected and they can continue functioning like normal. Without telomeres, your cells essentially begin to age and die.
The length of your telomeres begins to shorten as your body ages chronologically.
Notice the usage of the word “chronologically” in the previous sentence. Your chronological age is not the same as your biological age. In fact, your biological age is mainly determined by the length of your telomeres!
Short telomeres equate to an older biological age. Longer telomeres equate to a healthier, younger biological age. So it is completely within reason for a healthy 60 year old (chronological age) to be much younger biologically speaking, if they have long, healthy telomeres to continue to protect their cells.
As you’re beginning to see, the length of the telomere is the focus here. As we age, our telomeres shorten, exposing our DNA and leaving our body vulnerable to the diseases of aging. Some of the common diseases of aging — onset by shortened telomeres — include: Heart disease, Strokes, Diabetes, Cancer, and in some studies, dementia
When the telomeres in your cells become too short, they enter an aged, unhealthy state called senescence. In senescence, a cell can no longer divide to continue replenishing the body’s vital tissues. That is what then makes a person susceptible to the diseases listed above.
Telomeres, Oxygen, and Reversing Biological Aging
With the importance of telomeres to health and aging now understood, most people ultimately want to know how to protect them, and how to repair any degradation that has already occurred.
The scientific research team led by Dr. Shai Efrati, founder and director of the renowned Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research in Israel, proved — for the first time — that reversing biological aging is possible. By using hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), Dr. Efrati and his team of scientists were able to increase the length of telomeres in people aged 65 or older by more than 20%!
HBOT involves the patient inhaling pure oxygen in a pressurized environment. This study was conducted on 35 different adults, aged 65 and higher. Patients had their blood measured before the study, as well as during the 30th and 60th sessions of HBOT.
The findings were truly unbelievable: Patients who were given HBOT experienced telomere growth by more than 20% — in just three months! HBOT also had the effect of reducing senescent cells (those dangerous, aging cells with little-to-no telomere length) by as much as 37%. Those findings were the basis for creating the cutting-edge HBOT treatment protocol only available at Aviv Clinics.
How Can I Protect My Telomeres?
Unfortunately, about 30%-40% of your telomere length is attributable to genetics that are out of your control. Fortunately, that still leaves you with a wide margin to protect! Thankfully, there are many different ways you can protect your existing telomeres and thus control damage and the negative impacts of aging. These include:
Research has shown that people with high levels of physical activity have significantly longer telomeres than adults who are moderately active or sedentary. More specifically, adults who regularly exercise demonstrate a biological age difference of nine years when compared to those who don’t.
A Balanced Diet
Like regular exercise, a balanced diet is crucial in protecting telomere length. High levels of body fat create high levels of oxidative stress — stress that directly affects your cellular integrity.
In order to protect the length of your telomeres, you must reduce the levels of oxidative stress in your body. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in antioxidants can provide your DNA with the proper protection it needs to maintain healthy, long telomeres.
Avoiding Smoke & Alcohol
You already know that smoking and drinking alcohol aren’t the healthiest decisions — but did you know that people who smoke have shorter telomeres than those who don’t? Likewise, people who excessively consume alcohol experience faster levels of biological aging than those who don’t. The science is in! If you’re interested in protecting the length of your telomeres, stay away from tobacco and alcohol.
Stress, especially higher levels of cortisol, is one of the main reasons for shortened telomeres. Stress takes on many forms, but we are mainly concerned with: Psychological stress, Chronic stress, Life stress.
These kinds of stress raise the levels of oxidative stress placed on the cells of your immune system. Fortunately, there are many wonderful methods for mitigating stress in our daily lives. Whether it is mindfulness, martial arts, or meditating, you will likely be able to find a method that works best for you.