What is the Function of the Telomere and How Does it Relate to Aging?

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It’s the dream of just about everyone over the age of 30 — to turn back the clock and look younger. Sad as the reality is, maintaining your health and looks after your 20s can be challenging.

Luckily, it’s not impossible. A little something called the telomere may play a big role in aging.

What is the function of the telomere? Here’s the lowdown…

What is the Function of the Telomere in Aging?

First things first, unless you were a biology major in college, you may never have heard of the telomere.

telomere is a small structure located at the end of your chromosomes. They are made up of the same sequence of DNA repeated over and over.

The DNA sequence they are made up of can be repeated up to 3,000 times. For you science buffs, the telomere sequence is TTAGGG.

What Does a Telomere Do?

Think of the telomere like the cap on the end of your shoelace. Without them, your chromosomes could wind up sticking to other chromosomes. This could cause serious genetic issues.

Telomeres also make sure your chromosomes replicate correctly during cell division. If you didn’t have them, you would lose vital bits of DNA every time your cell divided. 

Without those little telomeres, you’d eventually lose entire genes!

So what do these little puppies have to do with your aging face?

Telomeres are what enable your cells to keep multiplying and avoid aging.

When a Telomere Shortens

With each replication of your cells, your telomeres are shortened. Over time, once the telomeres become too short, the cells can no longer replicate.

Some scientists believe that the secret to longevity lies in preventing telomere death. They have estimated this because of what they learn from cancer cells. Cancer cells never die, they just keep on replicating–often leading to tumor growth. 

This is because cancer cells activate a little enzyme called telomerase. Telomerase adds on to those telomeres with each replication. In other words, it keeps your telomeres from ever shortening.

How to Keep Your Telomeres Healthy 

The question you’re probably asking now is, “What can I do to keep my telomeres from shortening too quickly?” While much of it may be up to your genetics, there are some things you can do to prevent their premature shortening–and thus, your premature aging.

Major factors that shorten telomeres and harm their health include:

  • An unhealthy diet
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Unmanaged depression
  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • An inactive lifestyle

At the end of the day, science still has much to learn about the influence of telomeres in aging. The question remains, does their shortening cause premature aging? Or is their shortening just a sign of aging?

Still, the healthier you are, the healthier your telomeres are. Still, much research is being done to analyze telomeres using unique technology. Check it out here. In the meantime, doing things like getting regular sleep, exercise, and eating a balanced diet can help keep your telomeres from shortening faster than you’d like.

The Fountain of Youth

What is the function of the telomere in aging? In many ways, the question is still unanswered. 

But, you can do your part to prevent signs of aging by setting healthy goals for yourself. Check out the Women’s and Men’s health portion of our blog for more ideas on how to lead a healthy lifestyle.