There are two causes of aging. The first is human growth hormone – the more you have the longer you live. The second is the length of your telomere. The length of your telomere affects how long a cell will live. Each cell in your body has a nucleus. Inside the nucleus is a chromosome. It is composed of two helical strands of DNA (DeoxyriboNucleic Acid) with our genetic code. Humans have a total of 46 chromosomes. The chromosomes determine who we are, and how we will grow and mature.
At the end of each strand of DNA is a telomere. It is a protective end tip. Think of it as the plastic caplet at the end of a shoelace. It has no genetic information contained within it. However, it protects our genetic code. The telomere preserves and stabilizes the DNA strand from unraveling. The telomere is involved in the replication process (when a single cell divides and becomes two cells).
The shortening of the telomere through cell replication is part of our aging process. Each time cell divides, the telomere gets shorter. The shortening of the telomere determines the longevity of that cell. Once it gets to its predetermined shortest length, it can no longer perform its function with cell replication. The cell will eventually die. It is called apoptosis.
Each time cell divides, the telomere loses between 25 and 250 base pairs. DNA replication accounts for the loss of only 20 base pairs. Our lifestyle (stress, diet, smoking, etc.) accounts for the loss of the remaining base pairs for each cell division. For most people, this means that a cell can replicate between 50 and 70 times before it is designed to become inactive or die. It is the rate of loss of the telomere length that affects our aging process. The shorter the overall length of the telomere, the closer you approach the end of the cell’s lifespan. Is it possible to slow down the rate of loss of telomere length? Yes! Catch my next several blogs to learn what you can do.