01 Jul Healthy Lifestyle can modify your Gene Expression and Reverse Aging
Can you add years to your life by making smarter food choices?
There are many variables involved in how long you live, but by following a healthy lifestyle, staying active and eating a nutrient-packed diet, you can help slow the aging process and perhaps even stave off age-related diseases, including osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease. Lifestyle changes may turn back the biological clock, and reverse aging on a cellular level.
I have noticed myself how my body and mind stays fit when I follow a strict healthy lifestyle. Okay…Wait a minute. Does it really change my Genes for good? Being a Genetics graduate, this question bothered me from a long time. This made me choose my Ph.D. thesis on determining the changes in the telomerase gene expression (Aging gene) by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
So what is Telomerase?
Telomeres are small DNA segment present at the ends of chromosomes which act as protective caps. Every time a cell divides, its chromosomes undergo a doubling process so that the two daughter cells receive equal amounts of DNA. During this process and the separation of the newly formed chromosomes, small chunks of DNA are trimmed off at the end of the chromosomes. By having protective telomere caps, the shortening process only affects the telomeres and not the essential gene encoding parts of the chromosome.
When cells in a tissue are damaged then their neighboring cells or reservoirs of regenerative stem cells and progenitor cells have to kick in, divide a replace the damaged cells. Having long telomeres would allow these regenerative neighbors to keep on dividing and restoring the tissue, whereas short-telomere cells would have to give up early on because their protective telomere caps would dwindle.
“Telomerase” is an anti-aging enzyme makes this small segment of DNA called Telomere. When there is a high level of the telomerase enzyme, it helps to safeguard cells by making Telomere. Higher the telomerase enzyme, longer the cell can live. Measuring the activity of telomerase gene expression before and after adopting a healthy lifestyle will bring the importance of maintaining the healthy lifestyle to common people. So, I did this study in association with the Howard University Medical Center at Maharishi University, Iowa, Fairfield.
The study was conducted with forty-eight African American men and women with stage I hypertension. The choice of subjects was motivated by the fact that African Americans suffer from disproportionately high rates of elevated blood pressure and heart disease which are in turn aggravated by telomere dysfunction, psychosocial stress, and lifestyle.
Half of the participants were assigned to learn the Meditation technique, which is proven to reduce stress and benefit heart health and take a basic health education course. The other half of the subjects took part in an extensive health education program for 16 weeks.
The results of the study showed that the Meditation technique and lifestyle changes both appear to stimulate the two genes that produce telomerase and reduce blood pressure.
The finding that telomerase gene expression is increased, and that this is associated with a reduction in blood pressure in a high-risk population, suggests that this may be a mechanism by which stress reduction improves cardiovascular health.
While the Meditation technique has been previously found to lower high blood pressure, diminish occurrences of heart attack, stroke, extend lifespan and slow down biological aging, the new study sheds, even more, light on the mechanisms that might be involved in the process on the cellular level.