Have you heard of telomeres? These tiny DNA segments may hold the key to slowing down the aging process, maintaining your health, and extending longevity.

Your DNA’s telomeres help protect your genetic data and guard against signs of aging. As you age, telomeres gradually shorten, which can eventually lead to cellular death or damage. This in turn can cause aging, illnesses, and mortality. Thus, taking steps to protect your telomeres could, in essence, lengthen your lifespan. Scientists believe that making the following simple lifestyle changes could protect against telomere shortening – potentially adding years to your life.

1. Reduce stress

One thing that contributes to the premature shortening of telomeres is stress. While older studies found that certain experiences (such as caring for a terminally ill child) can shorten telomeres to the same extent as 10 years of aging, newer studies suggest that telomere shortening is more progressive and occurs slowly over time due to lasting stressors, such as job-related problems and burnout. Luckily, scientists have evidence of stress-shortened telomeres regaining some of their length with anti-stress techniques.

Make an effort to reduce or even eliminate daily stressors in your life to whatever extent possible. Simple changes such as listening to relaxing music while at work or spending a few minutes doing yoga or meditation could be enough to encourage relaxation and help prevent telomere degradation. Conduct a few deep-breathing exercises when you start to feel stressed, which helps stimulate the vagus nerve to calm the brain. The calmer you are throughout the day, the less your risk of prematurely aging your telomeres and shortening your life.

2. Stay active

Sedentary bodies are more prone to stress, which in turn shortens telomeres. Staying active and exercising more often can help relieve stress and reduce the risk of damage to DNA and telomeres. Exercising can help keep telomeres long enough to prevent the chromosomes they protect from spreading and fraying – ultimately enabling cells to continue dividing and thriving instead of aging and dying.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least two and a half hours (150 minutes) of activity each week for the best health benefits. Be sure to engage in a combination of strength training and cardiovascular activity. Learning about your individual genetic makeup can help you determine which exercises are best for you.

3. Maintain a healthy diet

Maintaining a healthy diet could also protect your telomeres in a few ways. Keeping your weight at a healthy range for your age can reduce the risk of shortened telomeres, especially in women over the age of 30. If your weight fluctuates a lot or you are overweight for a long period of time, it can lead to truncating your telomeres. Maintaining a healthy weight, on the other hand, could help slow the aging process.

Incorporating foods that are rich in antioxidants might also lengthen your telomeres. Vitamins C and E can prevent oxidative stress and damage to your telomeres, while vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory properties can also help in keeping telomeres long. Taking a multivitamin can help you maintain proper nutrition, as can eating the right diet for you.

There is still much that scientists don’t know about telomeres and their effects on aging. However, there is strong evidence to support that these three main lifestyle changes can protect telomeres, and by extension, lengthen your life.

Learn more about the ways your individual genetic makeup influences your health by ordering your genetic report from Vivaliti DNA. We analyze 80 different genetic markers to give you a complete picture of how your body responds to different foods, which exercises are most beneficial for you, and other factors that will help you meet your health and wellness goals. Order your genetic test today!