It's only fair to share…

As the year starts we all wonder where the previous one went too. Life is certainly speeding up. This also means that we are getting older at a faster rate.

Life expectancy continues to increase and people are living better for longer. Many in their 90’s and even centenarians remain active in body and sharp in mind.

Since ancient times humans have searched for the fountain of youth. In those times it was felt to be more a favour from the gods. Today many products and services offer us the promise of a more youthful look or an ability to stay young.

Most of these products come with a hefty price tag.

Yet it increasingly appears that the secret to staying younger is fairly obvious and not that expensive. It is essential to note that this is NOT about a fountain of youth or about not getting older. It is about how we can maintain better health and vitality to a later age than previously thought possible.

It has always been held that aging is inevitable and is beyond our control. As cells divide the telomeres, the ends of the DNA, shorten and after a set number of cell divisions there can be no more. This process was thought to be inevitable. Telomeres could get shorter but not longer.

This notion has recently been challenged. A new book called “The Telomere Effect” looks at research over the last decade, which is showing us that we are not prisoners of our genetics. What happens to our genes is influenced by our lifestyles.

Managing stress and regular exercise has been shown to increase telomere length. A recent study on nearly 1500 women by University of California showed a strong correlation between activity levels and telomere length in white blood cells. It was extrapolated that this worked out to an eight-year age gap biologically.

A diet that is high in fruits and vegetables and low in refined foods also helps.

It is important to note that much of this work is in early stages and aging is more than just an effect of telomeres.

However we know from those who age successfully that the secrets of a long life are not really secrets. When interviewed most who are 100 or more attribute their longevity to moderation in most things. These people are active both physically and mentally. They do not carry much excess weight. They usually have a positive attitude to life and do not dwell on things or feel victimized by the world. They manage their stress.

This is not rocket science. Much like a well-maintained car will “age” better so does a well-maintained person. It is not surprising that the factors, which influence telomeres, are the basic pillars of health.

There are no guarantees in life and the healthiest person can fall ill. What we can do is tilt the odds in our favor. To do so is neither difficult nor expensive.