For years I’ve been trying to get conventional doctors to wake up to the fact that stress accelerates the arrival of old age by increasing the amount of cortisol coursing through your body.
Increased levels of this stress hormone cortisol are linked to the inflammation that’s at the root of today’s chronic diseases – including heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, dementia, and a weakened immune system.1,2
Now, a new study by researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences shows I’ve been right all along. It provides more evidence that long-term stress speeds up the aging process by causing telomeres to shrink.
As a regular reader, you know telomeres are the tiny tails of genetic code at the end of each DNA strand. They are your biological countdown clock that determines how fast you age.
The longer your telomeres are the younger your cells act. The shorter your telomeres, the more prone you are to disease and “old age.”
In the new study, the researchers measured the telomere length of 647 volunteers between the ages of 35 and 74. Then the participants filled out questionnaires to determine how much stress they experienced in their lives.
The researchers confirmed that stress grinds down your telomeres throughout a lifetime.3
But then they discovered something even more worrying… The toll stress takes on your telomeres accelerates greatly after age 55.4
When you’re young, your body has time to repair the damage. But as you age, the damage becomes harder and harder to undo … unless you take immediate action.
The first step is to ease stress with adaptogens.
The second step is to activate your body’s production of telomerase, the enzyme that rebuilds telomere length.
In fact, I recommend that everyone over the age of 55 take a specific telomerase activator that’s also a powerful stress reducer.
Take The Stress-Busting Telomerase Activator
I’m talking about DHEA. It’s a hormone produced naturally in your adrenal glands.
Increasing DHEA levels provides a two-pronged approach to anti-aging: It lowers cortisol levels and increases telomere length.
You produce the DHEA hormone when times are good – when you are well feed, secure and free of stressors. The more DHEA in your body, the less effect stress will have on you.
Unfortunately, DHEA declines as you age. By the time you are 65 years old, you only have about 10% of the DHEA that you had when you were 20. Boosting levels will help lower cortisol and control your anxiety.
But studies show that DHEA also increases telomerase.
In one study, researchers told 50 men and women between the ages of 20 and 80 years old to supplement with DHEA. Testing determined that telomere length increased from 25 ng to 500 ng.5
That is an almost 2,000% increase.
I recommend supplementing with 10 mg daily. DHEA is well absorbed and can be taken at any time. But for best results, I suggest mimicking your body’s natural production and taking it first thing in the morning.
3 More Steps Everyone 55 And Older Must Take To Lengthen Telomeres
DHEA isn’t the only telomerase activator I prescribe to patients – especially those over age 55. Here are three of the best telomerase activators I recommend…
- First, get some sunshine. If you can’t get 20 minutes of sun daily, start with 2,000 IU every day of vitamin D3. And the next time you get blood work ask your practitioner to test your vitamin D levels so you’ll know if you need more. In one study of telomerase, people took either a placebo or 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day. After only four months, telomerase activity in the vitamin D group skyrocketed by 19.2%. Those taking the dummy pill had no change.6
- Take the right omega-3s: Several recent studies show that taking omega-3s activates telomerase and leads to longer telomeres. One study found that people with the lowest levels of omega-3 fats had the fastest telomere shortening over a five-year period. And those with the highest levels had the slowest shortening of telomeres.7,8 The two main omega-3s are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The best sources are cold-water fish like pollock, salmon, tuna, lake trout, mackerel, and herring. Cod liver oil is also one of the richest sources of omega-3s. Ordinary fish oils typically have way too much EPA and not enough DHA. I recommend at least 500 mg of DHA and 60 mg of EPA omega-3s each day.
- Try this sweet treat: An extraordinary Malaysian study from 2015 revealed that beekeepers have “significantly longer” telomeres than any other profession, because of their “great consumption and inhalation of honey” and other bee products, like beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly, all of which kept their telomeres long at every age.9 For telomere protection, you should only consume raw, unpasteurized honey. Pasteurizing removes much of the honey’s natural benefits.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Andel R, et al. “Indicators of job strain at midlife and cognitive functioning in advanced old age. J Gerontol. 2011;66B:287–291.]
2. Vitlic A, et al. “Stress, aging and their influence on functional, cellular and molecular aspects of the immune system.” Age. 2014;36:1169–1185.
3. Epel E, at al. “Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress.” PNAS. 101(49) 17312-17315.
4. Hayes, Annie. “Your DNA ‘Ages’ Faster from High Stress Levels, Study Finds.” Men’s Health, 23 Sept. 2021, Accessed 5 Nov. 2021.
5. Omura Y. “Beneficial effects and side effects of DHEA: true anti-aging and age-promoting effects, as well as anti-cancer and cancer-promoting effects of DHEA evaluated from the effects on the normal and cancer cell telomeres and other parameters.” Acupunct Electrother Res. 2005;30(3-4):219-61.
6. Zhu H, et al. “Increased telomerase activity and vitamin D supplementation in overweight African Americans.” Int J Obes (Lond). 2012;36(6):805-809.
7. Farzaneh-Far R, et al. “Association of marine omega-3 fatty acid levels with telomeric aging in patients with coronary heart disease.” JAMA. 2010;303(3):250-257.
8. Ornish, et al. “Increased telomerase activity and comprehensive lifestyle changes: A pilot study.” Lancet. 2008, Nov; 9(11):1048-1057.
9. Nasir M, Fatihah N. “Effect of consumption of bee products on telomere length and longevity of life in beekeepers.” Universiti Sains Malaysia. 2015.