Women who exercise, eat well, and sleep soundly protect themselves against the negative effects of stress and slow the aging process, according to a study from the University of California, San Francisco. The researchers followed 239 postmenopausal, non-smoking, disease-free women during one year to assess if major stressors predicted telomere length, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that affect how quickly cells age. Results showed that the more stressors a woman had, the more her telomeres shortened. However, women who maintained active lifestyles and slept and ate well before, during, and following stress appeared to side-step the ravages of stress, with their telomeres showing no significant additional shortening. “The hopeful message is if you engage in these healthy behaviors, you can decrease some effects that stress can have on your body,” conclude the researchers.
In Perspective: Telomeres on the ends of chromosomes are like the plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces that keep the laces from unraveling. Composed of DNA and protein, they protect the ends of chromosomes and keep them from unraveling. As telomeres shorten, their structural integrity deteriorates and cells age and die faster. They naturally shorten with age, but unhealthy habits and stress accelerate the process.
Puterman E, Lin J, Krauss J, et al; Determinants of telomere attrition over 1 year in healthy older women. Molecular Psychiatry 2014;July 29th.