Genes can play a major or minor part in determining your longevity. We inherit our genetic makeup from our parents. Genes arrive in our bodies turned on or turned off. Our lifestyle controls whether a gene that is turned off stays turned off – or, whether it will be turned on – and, vice versa. Lifestyle controls much more than you might think.
Your telomeres are the protective end caps on your DNA. Think of it as the caplet at the end of your shoelace. It prevents the shoelace from unravelling. Likewise, the telomere prevents the DNA from unravelling. When the telomere gets too short, the DNA is unable to perform its job and the cell dies. The telomere loses a little piece of itself each time the cell replicates. The length of the telomere loss is determined by your lifestyle.
Telomeres can be damaged by genetic, epigenetic and/or environmental determinants. Genetic factors are inherited from your parents. Epigenetic factors are compounds that mark your DNA. They don’t change your DNA, but tell your DNA which genes to turn on or turn off. Epigenetic factors occur naturally, or they can be altered by age, environment, lifestyle and disease.
Epigenetic factors affect our lives from literally nothing to something as dangerous as cancer. The diet a pregnant woman eats impacts the DNA of her child. Environmental factors increasing the rate of loss of telomere length include stress, diet, lifestyle, anxiety, depression, medicines, disease, toxins, smoking, obesity, and more.
Within this list, you control stress, diet, lifestyle, anxiety, depression, toxins, smoking and obesity – to name a few. It is the daily choices we make in our lives that become habits and affect our longevity. There are some things you can do to reduce the loss of telomere length each time a cell divides. Three critical things are stress reduction, exercise and nutrition.