Flipping through the paper the other day, an unusual article caught my eye. Written by a local doctor, it began by comparing aglets, the tips that keep shoelaces from unraveling, to telomeres, stretches of repeated DNA sequences that protect our chromosomes’ ends (much like aglets do), help cells divide and eventually, shorten and die. (For anyone out there reading who is more familiar with genetics than I, I sincerely apologize for that incredibly truncated, layman’s explanation!)
Telomeres dying, or becoming inactive, has been linked with aging, disease and death, and current research shows that telomeres become shorter due to unhealthy lifestyle habits, including stress and traumatic events. The good news is that changing unhealthy habits can halt, and in some cases actually lengthen,our telomeres.
It’s not news that stress takes a toll on our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Stress is linked to a whole slew of problems, including depression, high blood pressure, heart disease and lowered immunity. What was new to me, however, was that stress affects us down to our very core. Our literal DNA, that impossibly tiny, incredibly important, laddered twist of self that sets the stage for our identities – affected by bad traffic? By arguments? Pent-up anger? Apparently, yes. [click to continue…]