With an understanding that a region of repetitive DNA sequence at the end of a chromosome protects, through Telomeres, the ends of chromosomes from becoming frayed or tangled. Rasheed Abassi, MD. Chief Medical Director, Heritage Men’s Clinic Nigeria speaks on How Telomeres help us to live longer.
What are Telomeres, and how do they help us live longer?
Telomeres are basic proteins. They are like shields at the end of each chromosome. We all have chromosomes, and they are basic biological markers that form in DNA. They allow our cells to communicate. The latest discovery on human genome is that the longer your Telomeres, the longer you live. The big news, however, is that we can affect these Telomeres, by making lifestyle changes, and eating foods that can actually lengthen or shorten your Telomeres.
How do Telomeres impact lifestyle changes in newborns, the young and the old?
The older you live not paying attention to these lifestyle changes, you are exposed to inflammation. Inflammation is the basic cause of cardiovascular issues- heart attack, stroke, myocardial infarction and uncontrolled high blood pressure. Insufficient sleep creates internal stressors that lead to inflammation, and that affects your Telomeres.
Newborn babies have not been exposed to any form of stress, so no inflammation at all. They depend on the mothers and the parents to provide everything for them. The older you get and start acquiring these life stressors, your body accumulates a lot of inflammatory processes and those are the ones that affect your Telomeres. They shorten your Telomeres and that means you are going to lose a lot of quality life. However, if you get adequate and quality sleep, it will help you lengthen your Telomeres.
In a city like Lagos, which never sleeps, how can one guarantee quality sleep?
Given that we are in a stressful environment- West Africa and Lagos, a similitude of New York on steroids, we must be mindful that health is wealth, get in-between naps during the day, and good sleep at night. Study shows that if you are able to do that thrice a week, your Telomeres will increase.
In essence, siesta or sleep in the afternoon is different from sleep in the night?
Absolutely. And it has different benefits. Sleep during the day is considered your mini car service, different from major oil changes and transmission repairs. If you get good day and night sleep, the body does the restorative and cleansing process. Glymphatic activity is the only time the Human Brain undergoes its cleaning Process and this activity is exponentially boosted during sleep.
What would you really consider quality sleep?
When we talk about Sleep, there are four stages of sleep. Sound and quality sleep occurs during stage 4: Rapid Movement, REM Stage. Here, we are completely paralysed, muscles fully relaxed, totally unconscious and the Glymphatic System is at its peak.
To enjoy such sound sleep, don’t sleep where there is music. Turn off your cell phone and let the room be cool. That way your body can sleep and you can recover.
It will shock you that there is a link between Telomeres and cancer. Recent research shows that the consumption of processed foods and carbonated drinks lead to inflammation. And inflammatory Processes lead to cancer. You need to protect your Telomeres from cancer. Beans, lettuce and other good foods rich in fibre and low in fat, are what we need to regulate our Telomeres.
How much effect does exercise have on lifestyle change?
Exercise is good, but not stress-induced exercise. A regular 15-minute brisk walk in the morning and evening after dinner has been proven to reduce all major Cardiovascular stressors. Our major issues in this part of the universe are the Non-Communicable diseases: Hypertension, Diabetes, Strokes, and Heart attacks. All are positively mediated by exercise, such as 15 minutes twice daily. Including the likes of Prostate, Breast, Colon, and Lung cancer reduction.
We live healthy lives by eating healthy and unprocessed foods, reducing salt intake, and engaging in non-stress-induced exercise. No one can exercise his or her way out of a poor diet.
Traditionally, as Africans, we like seasonings in our soups. How do people get to adapt to tasty soups without salt?
With time, about 7- 10 days, your taste buds will adjust, because salt and seasonings are not meant to be consumed, but supposed to protect our food. We need to avoid them, as these are parts that constitute health problems. Salt, traditionally used as Preservatives, we turned it into seasonings.
With heightened self-awareness of healthy eating and exercise, how do we connect the dots to Telomeres, such that we can live healthier longer lives?
We are made of cells, and each cell has a chromosome. The Telomeres are the shields at the tail end of the chromosomes. Our cells become degraded, whilst DNA breaks down as we age. So, if my Telomeres are doing a job and I’m giving them the tools, as protectors, they will slow down and prevent aging.
If you can slow down inflammation, get good sleep, eat well, take brisk walks and drink lots of water, your Telomeres will flourish. The more they flourish, the more they protect your DNA from breaking down, and the younger you will look and live a quality life.
The quality of life is a result of your protectors. Telomeres protect your DNA. If your DNA is not protected, it gets exposed to inflammatory radicals and this will hasten DNA damage. The more they break down, the cascade of debilitating aging effects accelerates.
As we age, our bodies replicate cells. How can we help them re-program?
Absolutely, so your cells undergo a programming process called apoptosis which is controlled cell- death. You want to supply your Telomeres with enough water, rest, sleep and allow them time to reprogram. Because your cell is programmed to replicate, the more they replicate, the closer they get to their death date. Your Telomeres are now here to reverse that or at least slow down the aging process. And the more you can provide your Telomeres with what they need, the better you will be.
How Important is water in preserving or nourishing the Telomeres?
Stress cells in your body need something to get rid of them, and your kidney is dying for as much water it can get.
The clearer the colour of your urine without bubbles, the happier your kidney. Water clears all these deadly toxins. The more water you drink, the better you feel. Drink more water throughout the day, and 3 hours before bedtime so your bladder can hold the urine for eight hours or more, thus allowing you to get a sound uninterrupted sleep. Your Urine should have no color and no bubbles.
What environmental factors can impact the Telomeres?
Pollution can negatively impact the Telomeres. Exposure to deadly gases acts as an inflammatory precursor and they affect your Telomeres.
Talking food, Organic and genetically modified Organisms (GMOs), which of these helps the Telomeres?
You are what you eat. The genesis of GMOs- putting chemicals in food. GMOs gained popularity because of increasing world population and the need to mass produce. But, we are now paying the price. The consumption of organic and unprocessed foods helps the Telomeres.
How do supplements complement the repair of internal organs?
Supplements are chemicals, so the better alternative is good, unprocessed food. But if you don’t have access, go for complete multivitamins which give micronutrients with the right concentration.
Some believe that when you get old, you should flush out old blood and infuse fresher or younger blood to make you vibrant. How does that work, is that even true?
That is a big myth. The body is a complex machine, and every human being goes through a blood transfusion every 28 days and that is the unique essence of your skin, kidney, and bone marrows – to make new blood cells so you don’t need to get another person’s blood. You need to supply your body with the right materials. The grass is not always green on the other side. The more you get exposed to another person’s blood, you develop antibodies that are foreign to you. This triggers your own immune system and you don’t want that, because your immune system is meant to defend you..
You emphasised eating and drinking Water regularly. What about roots and herbal drinks? Are they safe?
Western medications are products of these herbs. But the issue with all these concoctions is that they don’t have appropriate dosages. Some are soaked in ethanol or methanol. If you know the composition of what you are consuming, and you believe it is safe, go for it. But we recommend, you take this at your own risk as some of them come with side effects.