Telomeres are gene sequences present at chromosomal ends and are responsible for maintaining genome integrity. Telomere length is maximum at birth and decreases progressively with advancing age and thus is considered as a biomarker of chronological aging. Every time a cell divides, its telomeres get a little shorter. Years of replication can eventually wear telomeres down so far that cells can’t divide anymore, and they become dormant or die. As more tissues have trouble rejuvenating, the body follows the cells, aging and eventually breaking down. In short, your cells have an aging clock built into them. But your chronological age in years doesn’t set the clock—your biological age in telomere length does. This age associated decrease in the length of telomere is linked to various ageing associated diseases like diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer etc. and their associated complications. Telomere length is a result of combined effect of oxidative stress, inflammation and repeated cell replication on it, and thus forming an association between telomere length and chronological aging and related diseases.
Another important aspect is telomere quality, as different from telomere length. For example, Alzheimer’s patients do not invariably have shorter telomeres, but the telomeres they do have show significant signs of malfunction – a problem that vitamin E helps correct. In some ways, telomeres are the weak link in DNA. They are readily damaged and must be repaired, yet they lack the repair efficiency of other DNA. This results in an accumulation of partially damaged and poorly functioning telomeres of lower quality, regardless of length.
The telomere measuring tests use a technology called quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction. From one drop of blood, white blood cells are isolated, broken open, and then the DNA is purified so the telomere length can be measured. This signal is compared to an unaltered gene and then a telomere score is generated.
Having the length of your telomeres tested to determine your true biological age can provide you and your doctors with a better understanding of your overall general health. If your biological age is much higher than your chronological age, you can make healthy lifestyle changes immediately to maintain or lengthen your telomeres; such as eating a diet higher in nutrition, improving your sleep patterns, exercising more regularly, and quitting smoking.
There is evidence that fish oil, vitamin D, carnosine,multivitamins, and healthy lifestyle choices10 may slow the rate of telomere shortening. This helps explain why people who take care of themselves and use the proper supplements enjoy such profound health benefits. Aside from the proper diet described above, there is some evidence that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy may reduce the rate of telomere length loss.