Book Report, Genetics, Longevity/Healthspan, stress

Book Report: The Telomere Effect

The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, Dr. Elissa Epel

The big take away for me reading through this book is that we can have an enormous influence on our biology; the “your genes are your” destiny theory is no longer applicable.

First a quick definition from the book: “telomeres (tee-lo-meres), repeating segments of noncoding DNA that live at the ends of your chromosomes. Telomeres, which shorten with each cell division, help determine how fast your cells age and when they die, depending on how quickly they wear down.”

The scientific history of telomeres and the details surrounding them are fascinating, but for the purpose of this short summary I will stick to the notes I saved in my Kindle where we can exert control over our health in profound ways; the mechanisms play out in the telomeres. The bottom line is that if we create an environment that is favorable for telomeres, disease and aging will be kept at bay better in most cases.

One more quick definition: telemorase is an enzyme that helps lengthen telomeres.

Here are a few notes from the kindle:

  • Telomeres hate processed meats like hot dogs, but fresh, whole foods are good for them.
  • Neighborhoods that are low in social cohesion—meaning that people don’t know and trust one another—are bad for telomeres. This is true no matter what the income level.
  • Some of us respond to difficult situations by feeling highly threatened—and this response is linked to shorter telomeres. We can reframe our view of situations in a more positive way.
  • Children who are exposed to several adverse life events have shorter telomeres.
  • when a cell’s telomeres become too short, they send out signals that put the cell’s cycle of division and replication under arrest. An arrested cell stops in its tracks. The cell can no longer renew itself. It becomes old; it becomes senescent.
  • senescent cells send out false alarms in the form of proinflammatory substances, reaching other parts of the body as well.
  • Senescent cells control the aging process!
  • Osteoblast cells need healthy telomeres in order to keep dividing and replenishing themselves—and when your telomeres are short, the osteoblasts get old and can’t keep up with the osteoclasts. The balance tips, and the osteoclasts nibble away at your bones.7 It doesn’t help that after a person’s telomeres wear down, the old bone cells become inflammatory.
  • But there are special cells inside the follicle—melanocytes, the same kinds of cells responsible for skin color—that inject the hair with pigment. Without these natural hair-dye cells, hair color is lost. Stem cells in the follicle produce the melanocytes. When these stem cells’ telomeres wear down, the cells can’t replenish themselves fast enough to keep up with hair growth, and gray hair is a result.
  • when all the melanocytes have died, hair becomes pure white. Melanocytes are also sensitive to chemical stressors and to ultraviolet radiation; and in a study published in the journal Cell, mice who underwent X-rays developed damaged melanocytes and gray f
  • APOE gene that puts them at a higher risk for early Alzheimer’s. One study found if you have this gene variant and also have short telomeres, your risk of dying earlier is nine times greater than if you have the same gene variant but your telomeres are long.19
  • TELOMERE TIPS Your telomeres don’t sweat the small stuff. Toxic stress, on the other hand, is something to watch for. Toxic stress is severe stress that lasts for years. Toxic stress can dampen down telomerase and shorten telomeres.
  • A challenge to your identity leads to threat stress, which can lead to poor performance, which can wound your identity. It’s a vicious cycle, one that may have a negative effect on your telomeres.
  • People with depression have shorter telomeres in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that plays an important role in the disorder.5 (They don’t have shorter telomeres in other parts of the brain, just this part that is so crucial for mood.)
  • Poor quality sleep, sleep debt, and sleep disorders are all linked to shorter telomeres.
  • BABY’S TELOMERES ARE LISTENING TO MOM’S STRESS A mother’s psychological stress may affect her developing baby’s telomere length.

Those are just a few of the 300+ passages I highlighted; turns out that is among the top 5 books I have in my library by highlights. The science here was great as it more reinforcement as to the avenues we have to take control of our health. The main takeaways are that stress and depression are huge contributors to disease, at the telomere level especially. I noticed that attitude and outlook made a huge difference in cancer, see this video, and it was a driver in my desire to learn techniques to help here outside of just adding pharmaceuticals (which can certainly be part of a plan).

Conveniently, the Human Potential Coach Certification I completed, has many tools to help with stress and positive psychology, which is called out by the authors as critical. Please reach out if you are interested in this area. As for this book, it is an excellent read, and the authors have contributed much personally to the understanding of telomeres.

This Book Report collection is meant to provide some of the best take-home points from the health and science genre I read. I will continue to go thru my notes of the 160+ and counting (as of January 2019) Kindle books I have on file. To view ALL the notes I saved on this one AND many others without a Book Report post yet, THAT IS ALSO SEARCHABLE, please click here.


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