Thoughts and Ageing, Could Your Thoughts Make You Age Faster?

If you haven’t yet listened to Ted Talks, we suggest you start now. They’re very interesting and discuss absolutely every subject on earth. These people are experts in their filed as are Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel who ask, could your thoughts make you age faster? This is a long but interesting read.

Researchers are finding that your mental patterns could be harming your telomeres — essential parts of the cell’s DNA — and affecting your life and health. Nobel Prize-winning scientist Elizabeth Blackburn and health psychologist Elissa Epel explain.

How can one person bask in the sunshine of good health, while another person looks old before her time? Humans have been asking this question for millennia, and recently, it’s becoming clearer and clearer to scientists that the differences between people’s rates of aging lie in the complex interactions among genes, social relationships, environments and lifestyles. Even though you are born with a particular set of genes, the way you live can influence how they express themselves. Some lifestyle factors may even turn genes on or shut them off.

Deep within the genetic heart of all our cells are telomeres, or repeating segments of noncoding DNA that live at the ends of the chromosomes. They form caps at the ends of the chromosomes and keep the genetic material from unraveling. Shortening with each cell division, they help determine how fast a cell ages. When they become too short, the cell stops dividing altogether. This isn’t the only reason a cell can become senescent — there are other stresses on cells we don’t yet understand very well — but short telomeres are one of the major reasons human cells grow old. We’ve devoted most of our careers to studying telomeres, and one extraordinary discovery from our labs (and seen at other labs) is that telomeres can actually lengthen.

What this means: Aging is a dynamic process that could possibly be accelerated or slowed — and, in some aspects, even reversed. To an extent, it has surprised us and the rest of the scientific community that telomeres do not simply carry out the commands issued by your genetic code. Your telomeres are listening to you. The foods you eat, your response to challenges, the amount of exercise you get, and many other factors appear to influence your telomeres and can prevent premature aging at the cellular level. One of the keys to enjoying good health is simply doing your part to foster healthy cell renewal.

Scientists have learned that several thought patterns appear to be unhealthy for telomeres, and one of them is cynical hostility. Cynical hostility is defined by high anger and frequent thoughts that other people cannot be trusted. Someone with hostility doesn’t just think, “I hate to stand in long lines at the grocery store”; they think, “That other shopper deliberately sped up and beat me to my rightful position in the line!” — and then they seethe.

People who score high on measures of cynical hostility tend to get more cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease and often die at younger ages. They also have shorter telomeres. In a study of British civil servants, men who scored high on measures of cynical hostility had shorter telomeres than men whose hostility scores were low. The most hostile men were 30 percent more likely to have a combination of short telomeres and high telomerase (an enzyme in cells that helps keep telomeres in good shape) — a profile that seems to reflect the unsuccessful attempts of telomerase to protect telomeres when they are too short.

These men had the opposite of a healthy response to stress. Ideally, your body responds to stress with a spike in cortisol and blood pressure, followed by a quick return to normal levels. Instead, when these men were exposed to stress, their diastolic blood pressure and cortisol levels were blunted, a sign their stress response was, basically, broken from overuse. Their systolic blood pressure increased, but instead of returning to normal levels, it stayed elevated for a long time afterward.

The hostile men also had fewer social connections and less optimism. In terms of their physical and psychosocial health, they were highly vulnerable to an early disease-span, the years in a person’s life marked by the diseases of aging, which include cardiovascular disease, arthritis, a weakened immune system and more. Women tend to have lower hostility — and it’s less related to heart disease for them — but there are other psychological culprits affecting women’s health, such as depression.

You can read the full original post on: Ideas.Ted.Com where you will also find the accompanying video.


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