HEALTH AND WELL-BEING: TELOMERS, AGING AND CORONAVIRUS

9 July 2020 Leave your Thoughts

Increasingly as we move into the 21st century, humanity is globally more and more aware of the importance of healthy aging and taking pro-active steps to preserve our health. This has been especially highlighted this year of the COVID-19 epidemic which is altering the way we all live. Increasingly each one of us is seeking our personal life-style formula that will maximize our personal health – and life span, and allowing us to age with as much physical and mental autonomy as possible. Even so, only a tiny percentage live to see a full century – 100 years and while this number is growing substantially, it is estimated that only around 1 person in 3,000 will achieve this. In Spain, there are currently around 15,000 centenarians although this figure is expected to continue to double every ten years.

Ecologists, vegetarians, flexitarians or realfooders; runners, vigorous, yoga, meditation and pilates practitioners; followers of coaching, retreats, fasting, acupuncture, hypnosis and many other alternative physical and mental therapies: all seek to live longer and better. High-quality natural food and regular and varied physical and mental exercise are the three pillars of 21st-century wellbeing and Hakuna Matata.

Everyone, in their own way, with their fears and with their own means, is looking for the perfect formula to live as well as possible and for as long as possible, since it would be a bit hypocritical for most of us not to admit that, well or badly, we want to live for many years. And more than a hundred, if possible.

Steps walked, calories burned, body temperature, heartbeat, sleep patterns, technology already helps many wellness followers monitor their health performance. The most widely used wearables are smartwatches (Apple watch, etc.) and bracelets that monitor physical activity, and although the level of satisfaction is very high among users, there are still some highly desired and unsatisfied functions, such as managing stress levels, the ability to control blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Science helps us to achieve our desires as long as we know how to prevent and cure. There is one scientifically proven test that reveals the state of our current biological age that could be very helpful on the path to desired longevity: Life Length’ Telomere Analysis Test® or HealthTAV®.

What are telomeres and why are they important for our health?

Telomeres are like the protective shields of the cells’ DNA and reflect the strength of the immune system. Their name, which is Greek in origin, literally means “end part,” since telomeres are the protective caps found at the ends of chromosomes and protect our genetic information during cell division. For our bodies to heal and function properly, cells must divide to produce new cells to replace old, worn-out ones. Telomeres allow our cells to divide without damaging or altering their genetic information, but the capacity for cell division is finite and as our cells divide, these protective layers are worn away until they reach a “critically” short length where they can no longer guarantee that the “daughter” cells will be perfect copies and send the message to stop replicating or, in scientific words, go into senescence. With the passage of time and accelerated by harmful factors resulting from a non-optimal lifestyle, we have an increasing percentage of senescent cells with the progressive loss of functional capacity at the cellular, organ and systemic level, that is, we age.

Telomeres play a very important role in the creation of age-related diseases, including cancer. Telomere length is the most critical biomarker for measuring aging.

What is the relationship between the state of my telomeres and the COVID-19?

Scientific and clinical studies indicate that people with shorter telomeres and therefore a greater degree of aging are more likely to suffer more severe consequences and even die from SARS-CoV-2 infection, regardless of age. It is undeniable that a strong immune system is a guarantee when it comes to fighting both COVID 19 and any other virus or infection.

Why should I know the status of my telomeres?

The telomere study is an excellent indicator of your general health status that reveals whether your cellular age is higher or lower than your actual age based on the length of your telomeres. Knowing your biological age is of vital importance, never better, because knowledge of our real age allows us to better understand which lifestyles influence aging and offers us the opportunity to make appropriate modifications and through periodic testing, measure the results.

A strong relationship has been shown between telomeres and cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, dementia, pulmonary fibrosis, major depressive disorders and some types of cancer, as well as infertility, type 2 diabetes and CNS diseases, among others. Telomere shortening is also related to certain lifestyle habits such as smoking, obesity, stress and sedentary lifestyles. Other studies have revealed that individuals who have suffered from situations of violence or abuse may have a very significant telomeric shortening.

What happens to telomeres as we age?

When we are born our telomeres are longer and lose some of their DNA with every cell division throughout our lives. In addition to the normal processes of cell replication, telomeres are also negatively affected by oxidative stress or cumulative damage caused by the passage of time and whose symptoms are premature aging. Our skin loses its smoothness, wrinkles and spots appear along with the potential development of all age-related diseases.

How reliable is this test?

Eighty years of research have produced a large number of publications that demonstrate the importance of telomere biology in aging and age-related diseases. Telomere length depends on genetics, environment and lifestyle: who we are, how we live and where we live.

After many years of work, Life Length is the world leader in the field of telomere measurement and diagnosis with the highest standards of accuracy and we serve customers and patients in more than 35 countries, from Japan to the United States. Our laboratory has developed proprietary, high-processing technology, a robust, sensitive and scalable technique that can be combined with other analyses to provide a complete picture of a person’s overall health and aging process.

What can I do to improve the condition of my telomeres?

The gradual shortening of telomeres at each cell division is an inevitable process, but it can be regulated by an enzyme called telomerase. Telomerase is the enzyme responsible for preventing the critical shortening of the telomeres, maintaining the homeostasis of the chromosome contents and is capable of regenerating the length of the telomeres to a certain extent, adding new base pairs at the end of the chromosome.

Many studies have shown that healthy lifestyle habits can positively affect the rate of telomere shortening, therefore we recommend that you:

1- Cultivate and maintain, as much as possible, good family and friendship ties. Loneliness also ages us.
2- Maintain a healthy weight.
3- Try to be optimistic, negative people age faster.
4- Exercise regularly, be active.
5- Meditate, do yoga, pilates or tai chi.
6- Manage stress, or at least try. Leave work problems at work and home problems at home.
7- Eat a healthy diet and incorporate supplements such as omega-3 oil.
8- Moderate alcohol consumption.
9- Avoid tobacco smoke and gas emissions caused by traffic.
10- Take advantage of scientific advances and maintain the desire to live longer and better.

Photographs: Luke Michael, Giovanni Corti & Rima Kruciene.


Life Length
is the most accredited clinical laboratory in Spain and is also the only national laboratory accredited by the US authorities. We offer telomeric analysis tests to doctors, patients, research centers and industry incorporating the measurement of telomeres and telomerase activity as key biomarkers in the field of health and longevity.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our laboratory has provided its comprehensive clinical analysis and testing services to help tackle the health crisis in Spain. We are working for hospitals, residences and corporate entities and we have contributed to the correct diagnosis of thousands of people and patients.

In our laboratory we carry out PCR tests to detect positive cases with a reliability of 99.9%, together with the most complete serology tests, the ELISA tests. We also offer the best quick test for the detection of IgM and IgG antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with a sensitivity and specificity of 98.6% and 99.6% respectively.

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