In one of my previous post I talked about 6 lab tests to do to assess your physiological age. Now that you know about the tests lets talk about some ways you can improve your numbers! Before I jump in lets talk a little bit about how advanced science is able to decipher our true physiological age. It has been discovered that each of our chromosomes have little caps on the end called telomeres. It is these telomeres that tell us our true physiological age. The longer the telomere, the longer you will live. Think of them like the little plastic caps on the end of your shoestrings. As you get more ware and tear on your shoestrings the ends of the caps begin to frey and get shorter and shorter. The same thing happens to your telomeres with age however there are several things that can speed up the process such as poor diet, lack of physical activity, excessive toxic exposure (including tobacco and alcohol), chronic stress etc. Below are a couple of things that can not only slow this process but in some cases actually lengthen the telomeres
1. Burst training.
You don’t have to be a gym junkie to be healthy. High intensity interval training (HIIT) or burst training for less than half an hour a few times a week has been shown to increase your body’s cellular repair anti-aging mechanisms and preserve telomeres. Check out my post from several weeks ago about how to easily overcome the 2 most common barriers to exercise where I give you a great resource for HIIT training
2. Manage stress.
It is no secret that negative emotions and situations aren’t good for your health. Research has shown that chronic stress actually shortens your telomere lengths, which accelerates your aging. It often isn’t feasible to completely remove stress from your life but you can change how you manage it. A powerful technique Dr. Andrew Weil taught me is the 4-7-8 breath. To do this you gently place the tip of your tongue behind your two from teeth and keep it there throughout the exercise. You then inhale through your nose over 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds and then exhale over 8 seconds trying to force out all of the air you can. You repeat this 3 more times and do it twice per day. With practice you will find that it can be very effective at diffusing a stressful situation. Guided meditation is also a very effective way at managing stress. I will be the first to admit that this can be very challenging at first but does get easier (and more effective) with time. One of my favorite apps out there is Stop, Breathe, Think which you can download for free in iTunes or Android.
3. Intermittent fasting.
Sounds intense, but the temporary restriction of calories has been shown to have a significant rejuvenative effect on the aging process. Studies have shown that animals who ate about 30 percent fewer calories also lived about 30 percent longer than the animals that ate more. One study also showed a reduction of cancer risk with intermittent fasting. This may not be for everyone, but is one way to increase the release of your body’s anti-aging hormones and preserve of telomere length. One of the easiest ways to do this is to eat an earlier dinner around 5pm and then do not eat anything the rest of the evening. The following morning you either skip breakfast or you can do what I do and drink a glass of bullet proof coffee but make sure to avoid any carbohydrates or sugars. You don’t have anything else the rest of the morning and then eat a light, health lunch. I try to do this at least 4-5 times per month.
4. Eat a variety of plant foods.
We’re alive because of biochemistry. Our bodies function because of nutrients, and vegetables are straight out of nature’s medicine cabinet. Each color variety offers you a unique array of the nutrients your body craves. Studies have suggested that a wide variety of plant food provides the essential nourishment your body needs to preserve your telomeres. I speak to many people who tell me, “Well, I don’t eat vegetables,” or, “I only like these two vegetables,” or the infamous, “I like corn” (corn is a grain, not a vegetable). They’ve decided ahead of time which vegetables they will and won’t eat. When I have them try something they thought they hated, these people often end up actually liking it. For the ones who still don’t like the taste? I tell them what I tell my two little kids: Sometimes in life we do things we don’t feel like doing, because it’s good for us and we’re big kids now.
5. Drink tea.
We’ve all read about the health benefits of tea, but one you may not have known is tea’s effect on your telomeres. One study found that those who drank three cups of tea per day had significantly longer telomeres than those who drank only a small amount. Green tea has a much higher percentage of valuable nutrients called polyphenols than black tea.
6. Eat healthy fats.
Good fats are essential for a healthy, long life. Research has linked healthy fat consumption with an extension of your telomeres and youth. Also remember your brain is made of 60% fat and 25% cholesterol! Fats like coconut oil, fermented cod liver oil, butter from grass-fed cows, grass-fed beef and avocado aid in optimal brain, cellular and hormonal function. These fats are also needed for fat soluble vitamins like A, D and K2 to be used by the body. Both these fats and fat-soluble vitamins are needed for the preservation of your telomeres.
7. Get quality sleep.
Quality sleep is essential for cellular repair and vitality. Poor sleeping habits, whether from conditions like sleep apnea, insomnia or just erratic work schedules, have been linked to accelerated aging and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and telomere shortening. The individual cause of your poor sleep will determine the treatment. Seeing a functional medicine practitioner or other qualified health care provider should be a priority if you are experiencing poor sleep.
8. Increase your glutathione levels.
Glutathione is your body’s most powerful antioxidant, and is one of the reasons why people don’t get cancer. Low levels are linked to accelerated aging and chronic disease. Many people are deficient in this essential antioxidant. Nutrients like N-acetyl cysteine, Sam-e and turmeric have been shown to help boost glutathione in the body and preserve telomeres.