Would you like to get a picture of your overall health – and maybe even get an idea of how long you are likely to live? I know some people don’t want to know. If this is you, you can look for something else to read instead. But before you go, consider this: what if you had genetic information that indicated you are likely to live another 35 years, or maybe only 5 more years. Would this information help you with decision-making?
I think it would. If I knew my genetic information indicated with a high probability that I would likely only make it 5-10 more years, I might make some changes. Of course, no single lab test can be that specific about your life expectancy, but you can certainly see trends with a combination of lab tests that should include a telomere test.
Telomeres are like DNA end caps that protect the DNA from various types of damage. Think of telomeres like the defensive line protecting the quarterback. The current theory states that, as the cells grow and divide, slowly these end caps erode and offer less and less protection to our DNA. The shorter the telomeres, the less protection and more subject you are to health risks. Telomeres are subject to damage from normal aging and from environmental toxins as well as any other type of chronic stress.
Cell division in the body is variable. Some cells will be in a constant state of turnover while some, such as a neuron, will tend to last most of your life. Many of our cells are capable of dividing only 40-60 times during a person’s entire life. This is called the Hayflick limit after the scientist who described this phenomenon about 1961. The telomeres tend to shorten with every cell division, and when they are gone, the cell reaches its life limit or state of maturity. This is called cellular senescence.
Knowing something about your telomeres gives you information about:
- Your biological age – your telomere length can be compared to others so you can see if you are aging more rapidly or slowly than others who have been checked
- Your disease risk – shorter telomeres are markers for age-related diseases
- Progress tracking – you can see if you efforts to stay as young as possible are paying off
- Help with cancer research – cancer researchers can use telomere length in their study of cancer
- Longevity research – researchers are using telomere information to learn more about aging and longevity
At OVitaminPro.com we are starting to have our telomeres tested, with the plan to do this about once a year. The thinking from those in the testing and research field is that, with yearly telomere information, you will have a very good idea of how your lifestyle, genetics and environment are combining to affect your longevity. This will help you decide if your health decisions are on track or not.
People being publically interviewed about telomere testing are very careful to state this is a new science – that we shouldn’t draw too many conclusions yet, and also shouldn’t make sweeping generalizations about telomere length and longevity. While we do have much to learn, I think it would be wrong to minimize the benefit that knowledge about one’s genetic protection can bring. My own father was a farmer and not well versed in human physiology, although he worked hard to keep the crops and livestock healthy. My parents got into selling and taking Shaklee products, including some supplements, in the mid-1970s. I remember my dad being pretty upset when he learned that in spite of all those Shaklee vitamins, he still developed an esophageal cancer that ended up taking his life. He wondered if he wasted all that money.
After working in health care for 35 years, I have a little different take on that. The problem is that, when we decide to take steps to improve our health picture, we didn’t always have good information about how to evaluate those lifestyle changes. I look at taking a few supplements as a step in the right direction but still very incomplete. Who knows how many things need to be changed to achieve optimum health? In my dad’s case, he needed to be gluten free, limit exposure to pesticides and herbicides like 2,4-D, lower stress and make some other dietary changes such as elimination of trans fats. The problem was lack of information. We didn’t know anything about gluten or trans fats in the ‘70s. We wondered about the effects of herbicides and pesticides but were assured by the manufacturers that these were safe. As far as lowering stress, my mother was partially disabled due to some poorly-thought-out spinal surgeries, so that didn’t make home life any easier.
Knowing what we know today, we would test for those gluten sensitivities and other possible food issues; do a good blood test looking at inflammatory markers, liver enzymes, etc.; and of course, check those telomeres. I would also advise to take as many precautions as possible when handling or spraying the “cides”.
It is too late for my dad, but it isn’t too late for you. This is one good way to get information about how your lifestyle and environment are affecting your genetic integrity. We can facilitate telomere testing for anyone with a California or Nevada address. Pricing is about $170 for the SpectraCell test plus the cost of the blood draw. SpectraCell was one of the first companies to see the potential benefits of telomere testing and is the company we trust.