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Take 10 Minutes To Look Years Younger

Today I want to talk to you about a very common problem I see in my patients here at the Wellness Center. It’s stress.

Did you know that people with the most job stress have the shortest telomeres?1 Here’s why that’s so important.

Telomeres are little caps on the ends of your DNA strands. They control how fast you age. Each time your cells divide, the caps get shorter, and your cells get weaker and older. When telomeres get short enough, cell division stops and life comes to an end.

When telomeres in your cells get shorter, you start noticing straggly hair, brittle nails, and dry, wrinkled skin. In fact, stress may shorten your telomeres so much that you look YEARS older than you really are.

Stress Can Add 9 Years or More to Your Appearance

In a study from the University of California, researchers examined 58 healthy mothers who cared either for a healthy child or a chronically ill child.

As you might expect, the mothers caring for a chronically ill child over many years had the highest levels of stress. They also had the shortest telomeres. The researchers estimated that the women with the most stress had telomere shortening equivalent to 9–17 additional years of aging compared with the low-stress group.2

Those additional years from shortened telomeres make you look haggard. They show up as dull, thinning hair. You may also notice brittle, peeling nails. That’s because each time hair and nail cells divide, they become weaker and more damaged.

And DNA damage to the connective tissues of collagen and elastin weakens your skin. At the same time, chronic stress breaks down your skin’s protective barrier. Your skin can’t hold moisture. In no time, your skin becomes dry and wrinkled.

Don’t let stress shorten your telomeres and make you look old.

Stop the Aging Effects of Stress in Just 10 Minutes a Day

Stress damages your cells at the DNA level by shortening telomeres. But you can reverse that damage by turning on your body’s natural telomerase. That’s the enzyme that helps rebuild and maintain your telomeres.

You can switch on telomerase in just minutes every day through a simple meditation practice.

A recent study looked at 39 family caregivers. Half listened to relaxing music and the other half practiced meditation for just 12 minutes a day. After only 8 weeks, telomerase activity in the relaxation group only increased 3.7%. But in the meditation group it shot up by 43%.3

Higher telomerase activity means your telomeres are preserving their length and protecting your cells. It slows down the signs of aging that appear in your skin, hair and nails.

Now, many new patients at my Wellness Center are intimidated by the idea of meditation. But you don’t have to get up before the sun. Or sit cross-legged on the floor for an hour without scratching your nose.

Meditation can be as simple as sitting for a few minutes and focusing on your breath.

For beginners, I recommend these easy steps.

  1. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit. A chair is fine.
  1. Rest your hands in your lap or on your belly. Close your eyes.
  1. At first, don’t try to change your breathing. Just notice how your breath flows naturally.
  1. Next, gently make your breath deeper, feeling your belly rise and fall.
  1. Notice your breath becoming quieter, slower and more regular.
  1. If your thoughts become distracted, bring your focus back to your breath.

Try to sit quietly in meditation for just 10 minutes every day.

And please let me know how meditation works for you.

1. Kirsi Ahola et al, Work-Related Exhaustion and Telomere Length: A Population-Based Study. PLOS One, Published: July 11, 2012, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040186
2. Epel E, Blackburn EH, Lin J, Dhabhar FS, Adler NE, et al. (2004) Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. PNAS 101: 17312–17315. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0407162101 PubMed 15574496
3. Lavretsky H, Blackburn E, Irwin M, et. al. “A pilot study of yogic meditation … effects on mental health, cognition, and telomerase activity.” Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2013;28(1):57-65.