How to Lengthen Your Telomeres So You (Hopefully) Live Longer

Pineapples and mangos in a bin at a market

I want to live as long as possible. That may seem like a sentiment shared by all, but some people would rather not go beyond 75. Not me. I love living, and I want to live as fully as I can for as long as I can. I believe humans can meaningfully contribute to society even very late in life. 125? Sounds great. More years to do all the things I want to do!

Given my attitude toward aging, I’m interested in research that studies longevity. I find the concept of telomeres fascinating. Telomeres are “the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes,” and they shorten as your cells divide. When they get too short, the cells die. If you are genetically predisposed to suffer from heart disease, for example, you’ll likely develop it sooner if you have shorter telomeres.

Scientists are discovering ways that we can lengthen our telomeres, though, thereby lengthening our lives. It’s difficult to prove definitively that certain lifestyle factors contribute to longer telomeres, but researchers hypothesize that there are beneficial things we can do.

Here are some lifestyle factors that may positively impact the length of your telomeres:

  1. Avoiding or quitting smoking.
  2. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
  3. Limiting exposure to certain pollutants, like toluene and benzene.
  4. Reducing your stress level.
  5. Eating more fiber.
  6. Eating less protein (particularly from animal sources) and polyunsaturated fatty acids, like linoleic acid.
  7. Increasing consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene.
  8. Eating less food.
  9. Exercising more.
  10. Getting enough sleep–at least seven hours per night.

As many of these recommended behaviors overlap with common advice for how to be healthier, hopefully you’re already doing at least some of these things.

Here’s to many more healthy, joyful, and meaningful years on Earth!

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