Is it time to test your telomeres?
For a few hundred dollars and a small blood sample you can learn how long your telomeres are. These are DNA structures that form caps on the ends of the chromosomes that carry genetic material, protecting them from deteriorating and keeping them from getting stuck to their neighbors. With each cell division some telomere material disappears. When the shortening reaches a critical stage the cell can no longer divide and eventually dies. The shorter your telomeres, the shorter your remaining lifespan will be. Do you really want to know?
Many age-related diseases appear to be linked to the shortening of telomeres, including coronary artery disease and several types of cancer. There is no clear consensus on the role of telomere shortening in the aging process or disease. That hasn’t kept marketers from latching onto the idea that it is helpful to know how your telomere length compares with that of the average person. Some companies provide you with your age in telomere years for comparison with your chronologic age.
Those who promote testing claim that bad news, like showing that your telomere age is a decade or two older than your chronologic age, is an incentive to change your lifestyle. Studies in humans are sparse but exposure to toxic chemicals, a sedentary lifestyle, a diet that is high in animal products and low in plant foods all appear to shorten telomeres. Stress reduction, exercise and foods high in antioxidants appear to make them longer.
No matter how long or short your telomeres may be, adopting a prudent lifestyle will help you to avoid the common diseases of aging. Instead of purchasing a test kit that might or might not predict how many years you have left it makes sense to follow some simple steps: regular, moderately intense exercise, a diet that is rich in plant foods and low in saturated fat, refined grains, sugar and red meat and avoidance of stress. Resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine, has also been found to increase telomere length. A glass or two will also keep you from worrying about them.
Mosquitoes love beer
In our mid-April blog we offered some thoughts about the importance of avoiding mosquitoes and eliminating their breeding sites. Now that summer is officially just a few days away here are some more tips that will make you a less attractive target.
Sorry to bring bad news but mosquitoes are attracted to beer drinkers and it only takes one glass to turn them on. A study from Japan seems to have nailed down that theory, which is supported by a mosquito expert at the University of Kentucky. The reasons aren’t clear but it might be the scent of CO2 that is released when you open that can or bottle. (Soda has the same effect.) You also exhale more CO2 when you are more active.
If you are sweating – and who doesn’t in the summer? – you’re adding another attractant. In fact, mosquito researchers use human sweat to entice the critters into their traps.
Dress defensively. Mosquitoes prefer victims wearing dark clothing.