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Lifestyle Habits Stall Cellular Aging

Update Date: Jul 29, 2014 07:44 PM EDT

Maintaining healthy lifestyle habits stall the aging process according to new research.

Researchers from the University of California in San Francisco found that maintaining a healthy diet, exercising and sleeping well can counteract the cellular aging caused by life's stressors.

"The study participants who exercised, slept well and ate well had less telomere shortening than the ones who didn't maintain healthy lifestyles, even when they had similar levels of stress," lead author Eli Puterman, PhD, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at University of California in San Francisco said in a news release.

"It's very important that we promote healthy living, especially under circumstances of typical experiences of life stressors like death, care giving and job loss," Puterman added.

The latest study involved 239 post-menopausal, non-smoking women who were monitored for a year. Researchers analyzed participants' physical activity, dietary intake and sleep quality. Participants also have blood samples before and after the study.

After analyzing the blood samples, researchers found that women who engaged in lower levels of healthy behaviors experienced a significantly greater decline in telomere length in their immune cells during stressful events. However, those who maintained healthy lifestyle habits experienced significantly less telomere shortening.

 "This is the first study that supports the idea, at least observationally, that stressful events can accelerate immune cell aging in adults, even in the short period of one year. Exciting, though, is that these results further suggest that keeping active, and eating and sleeping well during periods of high stress are particularly important to attenuate the accelerated aging of our immune cells," said Puterman.

"These new results are exciting yet observational at this point. They do provide the impetus to move forward with interventions to modify lifestyle in those experiencing a lot of stress, to test whether telomere attrition can truly be slowed," co-author Elizabeth Blackburn said in a news release.

The findings are published in Molecular Psychiatry.

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