We've heard for years about the benefits of reducing stress, and how we should make time for activities like meditation, yoga, and plain old relaxation. Now scientific evidence suggests that one of those benefits may actually be a longer life.
Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco have discovered an enzyme that plays a key role in normal cell function, as well as in cell aging and most cancers. It's called telomerase, and it produces tiny units of DNA that seal off the ends of chromosomes, which contain the body's genes.
The DNA units are called telomeres, and among other things they work to protect the quality of the gene, and how often a cell divides which determines the lifespan of the cells. What's exciting about this discovery is the notion that telomeres can be lengthened to prolong cell life — and along the way treat age-related diseases like blindness, cardiovascular problems and neurodegenerative disorders.
So how can telomeres be lengthened?
The answer could be easier said than done depending upon who you are and your lifestyle. Stress reduction in this era is almost an oxymoron, but if your life depends on it, you might start to prioritize things differently.
To get the best example, UCSF researches chose to study women caring for gravely ill children with chronic illnesses and disabilities. They found that women who were the most traumatized by their situation had significantly shorter telomeres. They reached that conclusion by comparing that group to women with decidedly more normal levels of stress.
The hope is that these eliminating the stressors in these women's daily lives may lengthen their telomeres and prolong their own overall lives.
Getting de-stressed takes work and determination, however. For some it will involve a change in lifestyle and they way they view stress and hardships — think yoga instead of sitting around worrying. The next time you have an extra ten minutes, consider stealing it for meditation … it could do wonders for your health and longevity.
The USCF Research is considered groundbreaking, and the team who discovered the telomere won the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology. Hopefully they're on to something