Telomeres are stubby strips of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes similar to the plastic tips on the end of shoe laces. They protect the ends and promote genetic stability. Each time a cell divides the telomeres shorten so the daughter cells have slightly shorter telomeres than their parents. However, in young people, telomerase, an enzyme, regenerates the ends and corrects the shortening. However, in older people, the telomeres shorten significantly and eventually their division stops.
Epel and her colleagues looked at the chromosomes of 2 groups of women. The first group had chronically sick children while the second group had normal children and hence had less stress. Women in both groups who had more stress had the shortest telomeres that represented nine to 17 years of cell ageing. Those that had been caring for a sick child the longest had worst outcome.
"484 middle-age, high risk men, those with shorter leukocyte (white blood cell) derived telomeres had a 50% greater risk of coronary heart disease and might serve as a predictor of the disease."
If stress can shorten the telomere and a short telomere is a marker for heart disease, then it will appear that reducing stress may decrease heart disease and other age related diseases. Stress is part of life, however uncontrolled stress is harmful. We are lucky to have a Father who loves us and is our shepherd. Instead of downloading our problems on our shoulders we can upload it unto our shepherd to help us reduce stress, through meditation, creative visualization, prayers, church attendance and health maintenance strategies.