Telomeres: The Tips of the DNA Strands

When I was in medical school, I was taught that we only use about 20% of our DNA and that the rest of it was left over from our evolutionary days. I never really believed those guys and thought that their relatives may have swung from trees, but mine surely did not!         

Now we know what the other 80% of our DNA is doing. The tips of the DNA were once thought to be dormant, but now are known to be very active and important to cellular health. The tips of our DNA are called telomeres. They act like the aglet on the tips of our shoestrings and keep the DNA from unraveling. They dictate to our cells when it is time to divide and how often to divide. With each division of the cell, the telomeres shorten. Eventually, the telomeres become too short and the cell dies.

The length of telomeres is set at birth. The length of your telomeres is passed on to you from your parents. In general, the longer the telomere, the longer the cell lives.

Several things can affect telomere health. On the negative side, any chronic disease can shorten the length of your telomeres.  Diabetes and hypertension are harmful for your telomeres. Smoking has been noted to be one of the worst offenders to telomere health. Depression can be detrimental as well. Obesity and lack of exercise are also associated with shortened telomeres.

On the positive side, we have some things that are helpful. Exercise seems to enhance your telomere length and can translate into longer cellular life and health.

The most amazing thing to me that can keep your telomeres healthy and long is having purpose and passion for life! Keeping a positive attitude is associated with telomere health. Understanding who you are and what you were created to do is actually good for your health. I believe that there is a strong spiritual connection that can be seen in our genetic expression. He knows the number of our days (Job 14:5) and the length of our telomeres!