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New Science of Living Longer and How to Achieve It.

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The new book The Immortality Edge: Realize the Secrets of Your Telomeres for a Longer, Healthier Life is a unique longevity regimen based on Nobel Prize-winning research. The book was written by Dr. Michael Fossel, Greta Blackburn, and Dr. Dave Woynarowski.

The Immortality Edge explains how telomeres play a role in protecting your chromosomes from critical damage. When telomeres shorten, this disrupts vital cellular function and causes the onset of aging and various diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's -- a progression that may not be inevitable after all.

According to Life Extension:

"Drawing from the groundbreaking discoveries about telomeres that won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine, this book includes a highly prescriptive program that shows you how to live longer by slowing telomere shortening and by rejuvenating your cells through relatively simple alterations in nutrition and lifestyle."

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

If you're interested in living longer, like longer than the biologically established limit of 120, I suggest you become very familiar with your telomeres, which are essentially the ends of chromosomes. Telomere shortening occurs as you age, at a rate influenced by your lifestyle and exposure to toxins, and exciting research suggests that slowing this shortening can actually extend your lifespan.

Extending your telomeres is one of the most promising strategies recommended by some of the leading anti-aging biologists and experts in the world; it is, without question, one of the most exciting methods that holds great promise to actually REVERSE aging.

Best of all, increasing telomere length is something that is well within your reach. Greta Blackburn's new book The Immortality Edge, which is based on Nobel Prize-winning genetic research, is the best current book on how to increase telomere length using a simple, easy-to-follow and practical plan. It's highly recommended.

How do Telomeres Impact Aging?

Every cell in your body contains a nucleus, and inside the nucleus are the chromosomes that contain your genes. The chromosome is made up of two "arms," and each arm contains a single molecule DNA, which is essentially a string of beads made up of units called bases.

A typical DNA molecule is about 100 million bases long. It's curled up like a slinky, extending from one end of the chromosome to the other. At the very tip of each arm of the chromosome is where you'll find the telomere.

Extending the Length of a Telomere

Stem Cell Information, The National Institutes of Health resource for stem cell research, Appendix C: Human Embryonic Stem Cells and Human Embryonic Germ Cells.

If you were to unravel the tip of the chromosome, a telomere is about 15,000 bases long at the moment of conception in the womb. (Remember the length of the entire chromosome is about 100 million bases.)

Immediately after conception your cells begin to divide, and your telomeres begin to shorten each time the cell divides. Once your telomeres have been reduced to about 5,000 bases, you essentially die of old age.

As stated in The Immortality Edge:

"Telomeres keep our chromosomes intact, in the manner of the plastic caps that hold the ends of shoelaces together. As cells divide and replicate, telomeres eventually shorten; when they become too short, cells die."

The rate at which your telomeres shorten can be accelerated by many factors related to an unhealthy lifestyle. Obesity, lack of exercise, psychological stress and smoking all cause production of free radicals, which can cleave telomeres, significantly speeding up the telomere-shortening process.

It was previously believed that you could only accelerate the shortening of telomeres, not slow it down, but now research shows that there are factors within your control that can actually slow telomere shortening as well.

How to Slow Down the Shortening of Your Telomeres

As I mentioned earlier, The Immortality Edge is one of the best guides on how you can slow telomere shortening by making relatively simple health and lifestyle changes. You'll find specific recommendations regarding supplements, diet, stress-reduction techniques, and exercise along with clear explanations of the science behind the recommendations.

This is truly a fascinating and groundbreaking realm of longevity research, as being able to reduce telomere shortening—essentially stopping the cellular aging process that eventually kills you—is one of the most promising anti-aging strategies we know of to date.

Much of the research surrounding telomeres are focused on turning on a gene that produces an enzyme called telomerase.

Cells that contain telomerase (your reproductive cells) do not undergo the same telomere shortening process that other cells do. Researchers are now screening different chemicals for their ability to turn on the telomerase gene and eventually develop the first true anti-aging drug.

But in the meantime, and if you want to use a natural approach to slow down the aging process, here are two of the best strategies to slow telomere shortening that I know of:

  1. High-Intensity Exercise like Sprint 8

    There's a direct association between reduced telomere shortening in your later years and high-intensity-type exercises. In a study published in Mechanisms of Aging and Development, the authors' state:

    "The results of the present study provide evidence that leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is related to regular vigorous aerobic exercise and maximal aerobic exercise capacity with aging in healthy humans.

    LTL is not influenced by aerobic exercise status among young subjects, presumably because TL is intact (i.e., already normal) in sedentary healthy young adults.

    However, as LTL shortens with aging it appears that maintenance of aerobic fitness, produced by chronic strenuous exercise and reflected by higher VO2max, acts to preserve LTL.

    … Our results indicate that leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is preserved in healthy older adults who perform vigorous aerobic exercise and is positively related to maximal aerobic exercise capacity. This may represent a novel molecular mechanism underlying the "anti-aging" effects of maintaining high aerobic fitness."

    Sprint 8 exercises are a perfect example of high-intensity exercises. The key to performing them properly is to raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold. You keep pushing at maximum effort for 20 to 30 seconds, and then recover for 90 seconds. The cycle is then repeated for a total of eight repetitions.

    Because it is very difficult to accurately measure your heart rate when it is this high it would be best to use a heart rate monitor until you are comfortable with precisely the amount of exertion you need to reach your target zone.

    Sprint 8 exercises can be performed with any type of exercise -- with or without equipment. So, while having access to a gym or exercise equipment will provide you with a larger variety of options, you don't require either. You can just as easily perform Sprint 8 by walking or running outdoors.

    Another benefit is the time it will save you. Instead of doing an hour-long cardio workout, you'll be done in 20 minutes or so. The actual sprinting totals only 4 minutes!

    The other exciting benefit of Sprint 8-style exercises is its ability to naturally increase your body's production of human growth hormone (HGH), which also plays a significant role in the aging process. You can find all the details on how to perform Sprint 8 exercises here.

  2. Increasing Glutathione Levels

    There are studies in progress showing that increasing glutathione levels will actually provide similar results to slow telomere shortening. Glutathione (GHS) is manufactured inside your cells from its precursor amino acids, glycine, glutamate and cystine, and is therefore not a compound you can ingest directly.

    Expensive glutathione supplements are available, but you can also increase your glutathione levels by making sure your diet includes foods rich in the sulfur amino acids your cells need to synthesize glutathione. Eating whey protein is the easiest and most convenient way to do this. Other food sources include animal foods and eggs.

I am so convinced of the research on slowing telomere shortening to live longer that I take our Miracle Whey protein every morning (typically after my morning exercise program) and have been doing Sprint 8 exercises two or three times a week since April 2010.

Again, these are just two lifestyle strategies you can use to slow down telomere shortening. The Immortality Edge contains many others, and you can also read this past article for even more tips to slow down aging and stay healthier, longer.

+ Sources and References