Telomeres and Reverse Aging: A Deep Dive into the Connection
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:
- Scientists were able to reverse the biological aging process in “thirty-five healthy independently living adults, aged 64 and older.” Through the targeted application of a unique hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) protocol.
- Telomeres are one of the critical biomarkers of age, and they naturally shorten during the aging process. The research study showed HBOT may help with “increasing telomere length…in the aging populations.”
- 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?
A telomere is a protective cap found at the end of each DNA strand in the human body. They are considered one of “two key hallmarks of the aging process.”
The two types of age to keep in mind are:
- Chronological age, or how many birthdays you have had
- Biological age, or the age that reflects your body’s functions
When considering telomeres, here’s how they manifest in age:
- Short telomeres equate to an older biological age.
- Longer telomeres equate to a healthier, younger biological age.
So it is entirely 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.
Telomeres and Shoelaces
Telomeres work much like the hardened end caps of shoelaces. Those components on your shoelaces protect the delicate strings they are connected to. Without a protective cap, a shoelace can quickly become frayed and unusable.
As long as the cap persists, a shoelace can stay intact for quite some time. Similarly, 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.
Telomeres and DNA
DNA is a commonly understood component of human biology. Few people go through life consciously thinking about how DNA functions.
Let’s change that with some facts:
- Your DNA contains the biological instructions necessary for your body to continue developing.
- Millions upon millions of cellular processes occur within a human body at any given time.
DNA manages those processes, calmly instructing your cells to divide, consume, and produce complex proteins to stay alive. Telomeres play a vital role in this function.
Telomere Length Naturally Decreases with Age
As we age chronologically, our telomeres naturally shorten. This exposes our DNA, leaving our bodies vulnerable to the diseases and effects of aging.
Some of the common diseases of aging—onset by shortened telomeres—include:
- Heart disease
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, which makes a person more susceptible to the diseases listed above.
Stress May Impact Telomere Length
External factors like stress can also affect telomere length. The American Psychological Association (APA) reports:
- “Chronic stress and cortisol exposure decrease your supply” of telomerase—the enzyme that replenishes telomeres. So when stress affects your life heavily, you become more susceptible to shorter telomeres.
- Stress is now “one of the most consistent predictors of shorter telomere length.” Exposure to life hardships (e.g., childhood neglect or caregiving in late adulthood) has been particularly noted for its impact on telomere length.
How Aging Manifests
Keep in mind, aging can look different for everyone. Some individuals may notice physical or cognitive changes as they age.
Physical changes may include:
- Wrinkled or sagging skin
- Whitening or graying hair
- Immune, metabolic, kidney, or liver issues
Cognitive changes may include:
- Memory trouble
- Mood shifts
- Slower executive function (e.g., thinking and decision-making, multitasking)
What Is Reverse Aging?
Now for some good news: Whatever type of aging you face, reversing it is possible. When referring to “reverse aging,” we mean biological age. Though chronological aging is inevitable, certain treatments can manage some of the biological shifts that occur because of natural aging and external factors.
The Research Behind Telomeres and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
With the importance of telomeres and aging now understood, most people ultimately want to know:
- How to protect their telomeres, 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:
- The telomere length of patients who received HBOT “increased significantly by over 20% following HBOT”—in just three months!
- “There was a significant decrease in the number of senescent [cells],” reducing the number of these dangerous, aging cells with little-to-no telomere length by as much as 37%.
These findings were the basis for creating the cutting-edge HBOT protocol only available at Aviv Clinics.
How Can I Protect My Telomeres?
“Telomere length is genetically determined, with heritability estimates ranging from 44% to 80%.” 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:
1. Exercise Regularly
Research has shown that people with high levels of physical activity have significantly longer telomeres than moderately active or sedentary adults. More specifically, adults who regularly exercise demonstrate a biological age difference of nine years when compared to those who don’t.
2. Maintain 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.
To protect the length of your telomeres, you must reduce the levels of oxidative stress in your body. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet rich in antioxidants can provide your DNA with the proper protection it needs to maintain healthy, long telomeres.
3. Avoid Smoking & Alcohol Use
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.
4. Manage Stress
Stress, especially higher cortisol levels, is one of the main reasons for shortened telomeres. Stress takes many forms, but we are mainly concerned with psychological, chronic, and life-related 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 meditation, you will likely be able to find a method that works best for you.
Fight Aging with Aviv Clinics
Aging manifests differently for everyone, but help is available. Aviv Clinic’s age-related decline program is based on research and has helped many clients restore the youthful vitality they seek and deserve.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can boost your cognitive or physical performance while reversing the effects of aging, contact our team.
Aviv Medical Program provides you with a unique opportunity to invest in your health while you age.