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Researchers are finding that your mental patterns could be harming your telomeres — essential parts of the cell’s DNA — and affecting your life and health. Nobel-winning scientist Elizabeth Blackburn and health psychologist Elissa Epel explain.
How can one person bask in the sunshine of good health, while another person looks old before her time? Humans have been asking this question for millennia, and recently, it’s becoming clearer and clearer to scientists that the differences between people’s rates of aging lie in the complex interactions among genes, social relationships, environments and lifestyles. Even though you are born with a particular set of genes, the way you live can influence how they express themselves. Some lifestyle factors may even turn genes on or shut them off.
Deep within the genetic heart of all our cells are telomeres, or repeating segments of noncoding DNA that live at the ends of the chromosomes. They form caps at the ends of the chromosomes and keep the genetic material from unraveling. Shortening with each cell division, they help determine how fast a cell ages. When they become too short, the cell stops dividing altogether. This isn’t the only reason a cell can become senescent — there are other stresses on cells we don’t yet understand very well — but short telomeres are one of the major reasons human cells grow old. We’ve devoted most of our careers to studying telomeres, and one extraordinary discovery from our labs (and seen at other labs) is that telomeres can actually lengthen.
What this means: aging is a dynamic process that could possibly be accelerated or slowed — and, in some aspects, even reversed. To an extent, it has surprised us and the rest of the scientific community that telomeres do not simply carry out the commands issued by your genetic code. Your telomeres are listening to you. The foods you eat, your response to challenges, the amount of exercise you get, and many other factors appear to influence your telomeres and can prevent premature aging at the cellular level. One of the keys to enjoying good health is simply doing your part to foster healthy cell renewal.
In lots of measurable ways, life gets better as you get older: Studies indicate that people get more agreeable and conscientious and trusting as they age, and having survived the ravages of time, they gain in wisdom, too. Especially, according to a new paper, in bed.
Published in the Journal of Sexual Research, a research team led by University of Minnesota postdoc Miri Forbes analyzed data on 6,000 people aged 20 to 93. The responses were survey questions completed by mail in 1995, 2003, and 2013.
As Forbes and her colleagues note in a new post about their research at the Conversation, people’s outlook on sex shifted as they got older — caring more about the “thought and effort” put into sexuality, and less hung up on frequency of getting laid. That change in priorities was a big predictor of older people’s sex-life satisfaction, they found.
“When we matched older and younger adults on key characteristics of their sex lives — along with socio-demographic characteristics, and mental and physical health — older adults actually had better sexual quality of life” than younger adults, the authors write.
This was especially true for people in long-term romantic relationships: Consistent with earlier studies showing that stability was related to being more adventurous and attentive to a partner, which is, as another sexuality researcher told Science of Us, the one true way to get better at sex. Forbes and her team call it “sexual wisdom.”
Misao Okawa – Misao Okawa of Osaka, Japan, was 117 when she died on April 1. She was the world's oldest person, according to Guinness World Records. She was born on March 5, 1898, and had three children. Her husband died in 1931. She kept in shape throughout much of her life; at 102, she said she did leg squats to keep healthy. She didn't start using a wheelchair until she turned 110.
(CNN)Go ahead lie about your age. It may be the very thing that helps you live a longer life.
If those fibbers truly believe that they are younger than what it says on their birth certificate, a new study shows they are among a group of people who have a lower death rate.
That's compared with those who felt their age or who even feel older than their years.
The new research letter is published in JAMA Internal Medicine online.
The study looked at data from from 6,489 people with an average age of 65.8 years who reported that they felt a little less than 10 years younger. What's interesting is most people in the study didn't feel like their actual age. Most said they felt about three years younger. Only a tiny percent, some 4.8%, felt at least a year older than their actual age.
When University College London researchers followed up on these people over the next eight years, the scientists found only a little over 14% of those who felt younger than their years had died. That was compared with the more than 24% of the people who reported feeling older or feeling their age who had died. Some 18% of the people who felt like their chronological age died in that same time period.
The researchers say they want to better understand what made the difference with this group.
"Possibilities include a broader set of health behaviors than we measured (such as maintaining a healthy weight and adherence to medical advice), and greater resilience, sense of mastery and will to live among those who feel younger than their age," the study concludes. "Self-perceived age has the potential to change, so interventions may be possible. Individuals who feel older than their actual age could be targeted with health messages promoting positive health behaviors and attitudes toward aging."
Dr. Sharon Bergquist, a physician and assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine who specializes in healthy aging, isn't surprised by the results.
"Research is showing us that personality can so be tied to your destiny," Bergquist said.
New research into the link between personality and aging finds that there are two main traits that seem to help people live a longer life: conscientiousness and optimism.
People who have both traits may have more of a will to do the right thing to live a healthy lifestyle that can keep them healthy long into old age.
"Aging well can certainly become a self-fulfilling prophecy," she said.
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