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dna-markersHow understanding your biological age can help promote healthy longevity

Tick, tock, tick tock … our own biological clocks keep ticking no matter what we do. Many have searched in vain for an answer to be younger (Juan Ponce de León once tried to find the Fountain of Youth …) or, at least, look younger (many of Hollywood’s actors and actresses have undergone expensive plastic surgery to remove wrinkles or “crow’s feet” around their eyes). However, there seems to be no proven way to stop aging. While we continue to struggle accepting that reality, would the next best thing to stopping aging be being able to predict how old we can become? Knowing when one’s own life will end may seem somewhat disturbing, but there are some good reasons for this - being able to better pinpoint any age-related diseases and/or deciding to become a parent could be examples. How to Predict Your Biological Age One of the latest methods claiming to provide you with this information is by measuring human telomeres. If you’re not familiar with human anatomy, telomeres are strings of DNA that protect the ends of human chromosomes (if a visual will help, just imagine someone wearing a hat to shield one’s head from the bright sun). As we age, our telomeres continue to work and have, in fact, been found to shorten over the course of time. This has led scientists to suggest that telomere length could indicate a person’s life span. Knowing the probability of your own human longevity may or may not have some merit to it. Before you decide for yourself, do some research and/or listen to what the experts say. One such expert is Dr. William Hahn, a Harvard Medical School Professor and Chief Research Strategy Officer at Harvard-Affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who explains, “if your telomeres are long, it doesn’t guarantee that something bad won’t happen.” Should you remain curious, there are numerous tests which can measure your own telomere length. Before you jump in, it should be noted that you will need to take multiple tests … the first test can only provide you a baseline length of your telomeres; subsequent tests can provide further information for comparison. You could begin by turning to your own home computer and “Google searching” the term, “telomere testing”. You will be provided numerous pages of companies which market telomere testing kits which can be ordered for home use. Prick your finger to supply a drop of blood (or do a cheek swab if you’re anywhere near squeamish) and mail it back to the company. Testing will be completed (this may take a few weeks) and your results will be provided to you. If you prefer, another option is for you to consult with your own doctor. He/she can do this test for you or refer to a medical laboratory for analysis. Other Factors for Healthy Longevity It should be noted, however, that there are various other factors over and above telomere testing which will certainly promote healthy longevity, which will likely have heard before. Tips for positive aging include eating nutritiously, drinking plenty of water, avoiding excessive alcohol and/or drugs, sleeping regularly, and exercising. Your human body is like a machine, what you put into it greatly determines what you will get out of it. If you want to take some time to do more research into telomere testing and deliberate if this is something that you want to do, please do so! Do know, however, that whatever and whenever you decide, your biological clock will keep ticking. Tick, tock, tick, tock …

About the Author(s)

As a former co-caregiver, Rick Lauber helped and supported his own aging parents. His mother had Parkinson's and Leukemia and his father had Alzheimer's. Rick learned that caregiving is challenging and used writing to personally cope.

His stories became two books, Caregiver's Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver's Guide.

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