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Telomeres and Aging: Unlocking the Key to Healthy Aging

February 21, 2024

Aging seems to be an inescapable part of life: our spines may shrink, skin begins to wrinkle, and attention spans may dissipate. But what if aging was escapable—or at least reversible? What if scientists were able to target one of the root causes of aging in our cells and treat aging as if it were an illness instead of an inevitibility?

Here is where the link between telomeres and aging comes in. 

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. 
  • One of the critical biomarkers of age,  telomeres, naturally shorten during the aging process. The breakthrough research study showed HBOT may aid in  “increasing telomere length…in the aging populations.” 

These findings are truly groundbreaking, especially 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 reverse the biomarkers of aging, a seemingly impossible task that previously existed only in science fiction? The answer lies in telomeres—a critical component of our DNA.

Aviv Clinics Telomeres

What Are Telomeres?

A telomere is a protective cap found at the end of each chromosome  in the human body. Made up of DNA and proteins, telomeres are considered one of “two key hallmarks of the aging process.” 

When we consider how we age, there are  two types of age to keep in mind: 

  • Chronological age, or how many years you have lived
  • Biological age, or the age reflected in your cells and  your body’s functions

When considering telomeres, here’s how they manifest in our biological age: 

  • Short telomeres equate to an older biological age because they are less able to protect our chromosomes from degrading.
  • Longer telomeres protect our chromosomes and equate to a healthier, younger biological age. 

So it is entirely within reason for a healthy 70-year-old (chronological age) to be much younger (biologically speaking) if they have long, healthy telomeres to continue to protect their cells.

telomeres and aging

Telomeres and Shoelaces

Telomeres work much like aglets, the hardened end caps on our shoelaces. Those components on your shoelaces protect the delicate strings they are connected to. Without a protective cap, a shoelace can quickly become frayed, weak, and ultimately unusable. 

As long as the aglet caps persist, 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 

Our chromosomes are made up of long strings of DNA molecules. 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. As the protective caps on our chromosomoes, telomeres play a vital role in this function.

Telomere Length Naturally Decreases with Age

As we age chronologically, our cells continue to divide and subdivide, each time causing our telomeres to naturally and gradually shorten. This exposes our chromosomes and DNA, leaving our bodies vulnerable to the diseases and effects of aging. 

Some of the common diseases of aging—which can be onset by shortened telomeres—include: 

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Dementia

When the telomeres in your cells become too short, cells can enter an aged, unhealthy state called senescence. In senescence, a cell continues to exist despite the fact that it can no longer divide and function properly.  Eventually, this buildup of non-functioning senescent cells 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?

telomeres and aging

Now for some good news: Whatever type of aging you face, reverse aging it is also possible. When referring to “reverse aging,” we refer specifically to  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.

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.

How to Lengthen Telomeres

Yes, telomeres naturally and inevitably shorten over time, leaving your DNA vulnerable to deterioration. However, emerging science has found evidence that we can address, and even slow, this process—and the accompanying aspects of aging. 

Genetic factors play a role, but different lifestyle habits and interventions may help promote telomere lengthening. Here’s what the research says. 

telomeres and aging


Consuming a balanced diet may help protect telomeres from damage: Research shows that “a healthy diet characterized by a high intake of dietary fiber and unsaturated lipids exerts a protective role on telomere health,” whereas a diet high in sugar and saturated fats accelerates the loss of healthy, intact telomeres. 


These studies also show that “physical activity has been associated with longer telomere length and protection” against telomere decay, potentially by supporting telomere activity after an aerobic exercise session. 

Stress Reduction 

Calming strategies, such as meditation, may have a powerful influence on telomeres and aging, as researchers have discovered “longer relative telomere lengths in individuals with many years of experience” in Buddhist-derived meditation practices.

Alternative Interventions 

Healthy lifestyles “improve the chances of maintaining optimal health later in life.” Other treatments and therapies that support longevity by proactively managing physical, cognitive, and mental health have shown promise in supporting telomere health. 

The opportunity for healthy aging is within reach today more than ever. As research into telomere and aging dynamics continues to offer insights into the rate of cellular aging, scientists pave the way for revolutionary interventions, many with groundbreaking results. 

telomeres and aging

The Research Behind Telomeres and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

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 a unique, specialized hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) protocol, 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%.

Research Method

At its core, HBOT involves patients inhaling pure oxygen inside a pressurized environment. This study was conducted on 35 different adults aged 65 and older. Patients had their biomarkers measured before the study, as well as after their 30th and 60th sessions of HBOT.

Research Findings

The findings were truly unbelievable:  

  • The telomere length of patients who received the HBOT protocol “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 available at Aviv Clinics. 

How Can I Protect My Telomeres?

telomeres and reverse aging

“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 “adults who participate in high levels of [physical activity] tend to have longer telomeresthan 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. 

As mentioned, aerobic exercise is the key to these benefits. Health professionals generally recommend increasing your heart rate for about 30 minutes daily. 

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.

Research shows that “healthy dietary patterns, such as MedDiet [Mediterranean Diet], and more specifically the introduction of certain micronutrients in the diet, could have a protective effect on telomere shortening.” This means more fruits and vegetables, less red or processed meat, and fewer sugary beverages.

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? It’s true: “Telomere length was shorter among ever smokers than never smokers.”

Likewise, people who excessively consume alcohol experience faster levels of biological aging than those who don’t—“the more alcohol that people drink, the more their cells appear to age.” The science is in: If you want to understand how to lengthen telomeres, stay away from tobacco and alcohol.

4. Manage Stress

How does stress shorten telomeres? Several mechanisms impact this process.

Stress takes many forms, but we are mainly concerned with psychological, chronic, and life-related stress. When we experience stress, especially higher cortisol levels, “we see effects that override normal aging, making our telomeres look like they are from a significantly older person.” Excess stress can wreak havoc on telomeres and aging cells. 

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.

5. The Aviv Medical Program

The above therapies, including HBOT, can be implemented together in the individualized Aviv Medical Program. Based on a series of comprehensive physical, medical, cellular, and cognitive assessments, Aviv’s team of clinical professionals builds a customized treatment plan to address your healthy aging needs. Your personalized program can combine evidence-based interventions such as physical and cognitive training, nutrition guidance, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and more. Combined, these can help protect and lengthen telomeres, reduce senescence, and reverse some of the key hallmarks of cellular aging.

telomeres and aging

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

Couple Peruse Healthy Aging Bob & Laurie’s Story – Aviv Clinics:


Aviv Medical Program provides you with a unique opportunity to invest in your health while you age.

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