Our cells are amazing machines, they can survive a lot of damage, fight infections and keep us alive for many years. But they are not perfect at it and in the process of defending ourselves they may cause some damage. This damage when accumulated may lead to age related diseases later in life. There are many theories on how and why this damage happens but the truth is that there is no single theory accepted by everyone and totally proven.
If you are interested in longevity i have a few articles from this month linked here you should read too.
Specifically that damage i am talking about is on telomeres, large sequences of DNA that don’t code for anything but protect our chromosomes. This is because the enzymes that replicate our DNA when a cell divides can’t replicate all of it. So a piece at the end has to get cut every time. This piece is part of our telomeres. And throughout our lives as our cells divide we end up with shorter and shorter telomeres. And at some point there are no more telomeres to protect our chromosomes so we start seeing problems. Those problems we call age related diseases.
Interestingly, as men age, the telomeres in our sperm cells get longer. Whether that is good or bad will require a lot more studies to be determined. But for now this seems to be a good thing. Children born by older fathers tend to really have longer telomeres and this has been proven to result in a longer lifespan. Of course lifespan is very complicated to study because there are a lot of factors affecting it. Imagine a human life. It is very hard to control for all the possible variables and study an individual with long and another individual with short telomeres. So all we can have is approximations.
On the other hand all the studies tend to show a similar thing and that is that telomeres are related to lifespan. More importantly they are related to healthspan, which may be due to the lack of older individuals stem cells to divide. So people with larger telomeres will have chances of living longer and healthier.
So if you were born by parents in their 40s and 50s you may have a chance to live longer. I wasnt, my parents were very young when they made me but who knows, maybe i got some long telomeres too. In any case you shouldnt make this an excuse to be unhealthy. Even more now take advantage of your knowledge, be healthy and try to increase your lifespan. And you never know, some say that in a few years there will be drugs to do this exact thing. We certainly live in interesting times and i am excited to see what the next few years will show about telomeres and the human lifespan.
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