Summary of The Telomere Effect

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Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn and co-author psychologist Elissa Epel distill decades of findings into a readable and fascinating exploration of telomeres, the tips of chromosomes that protect your DNA during cell division. As you grow older, your telomeres shorten and your cells fail to replenish body tissue, leaving you vulnerable to the diseases of aging. However, the slow march of telomere attrition is not inevitable. One of the exciting things the authors report is that you can slow or reverse the wear and tear on your telomeres with lifestyle changes such as managing stress, exercising, getting enough sleep and eating well. Although the authors don’t offer a magic elixir to help you live longer, getAbstract believes readers of all ages will find in its pages the motivation and tools to live healthier, happier lives.

About the Authors

A Nobel Prize winner for her research on telomeres and aging, Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, is president of the Salk Institute. Elissa Epel, PhD, a psychologist and expert on aging, is professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco and the director of its Aging, Metabolism and Emotions Center.



Your Telomeres

“Healthspan” refers to the number of healthy years in a life; “diseasespan” defines the years you live with the diseases of aging that negatively affect your quality of life. The interplay of many factors determines your healthspan. The question about why people age at different rates leads into the “nature” versus “nurture” argument. Nature assigns you certain genes, yet your habits shape the quality of your well-being. Your habits greatly affect your pace of cellular aging, which determines how old or young you feel.  

Telomeres exist at the ends of chromosomes, much like aglets, the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. Telomeres protect the chromosomes during cell division by allowing genetic DNA to remain intact when cells divide. The length of telomeres determines the health of a cell and its ability to reproduce.

Telomeres shorten with cell division until they hit the “Hayflick limit,” named for biologist Leonard Hayflick who discovered that some cells eventually stop reproducing and enter “senescence.” Other cells renew throughout your life, such as stem cells. These remain in the stage of cell replenishment called...

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