In "The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer," Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel postulate that telomeres — a small part of our chromosomes — constitute the mind-body connection, the link between our physical and psychological health.
Telomeres are the tiny protective tips located at both ends of our chromosomes. Each time a cell divides, a small slice at the end of the cell is removed. In other words, telomere endcaps act as disposable buffers during chromosome replication. Long telomeres keep the chromosome within intact and prevent our cells from aging. This is thought to lead to both a longer lifespan and living through old age with good health.
The authors discuss a variety of factors that appear to leave telomeres intact longer. Some of the positive factors include sleep quality, exercise and nutrition; some of the negative ones include chronic stress, negative thoughts, poor relationships and even poor neighborhoods.
Later chapters explore each of these factors in depth. The end of each chapter contains a section entitled the "Renewal Lab," which provides pragmatic steps to maintain your telomere health in the given area. For example, the Renewal Lab at the end of the sleep chapter provides five different bedtime rituals to support restful sleep, including some stretches, listening to music or drinking some warm herbal tea.
Given the benefits of long telomeres, people might be tempted to consume products claiming to lengthen telomeres. The authors warn against taking untested telomere lengthening products. They believe these products may increase the production of cancerous cells. Once a cell's telomere has reached its shortest length, the body normally takes these old cells out of service, instead of letting them produce faulty runaway cells.
Overall, I found this book to be very interesting. The scientific information is presented in an accessible and non-technical manner. Readers are likely to find inspiration for implementing healthier life choices. I especially liked the practical advice contained in the Renewal Lab sections at the end of each chapter. Finally, the demonstrated link between a person's income, social connections and prenatal health could encourage people to address social inequalities that deter healthy functioning.
Qhyrrae Michaelieu is the manager of adult services at the Missouri River Regional Library.