The secret to a supercharged immune system? Protecting telomeres, the age-fighting caps at the end of DNA strands. Studies show immune cells with longer telomeres fight off respiratory infections twice as effectively. Plus, Norwegian research suggests longer telomeres decrease Covid-19 severity. Try these five tips to strengthen your immune system.
Sleep on the left side of the bed.
Harvard scientists say folks with upbeat attitudes have telomeres that are effectively 11 to 23 years longer than those of pessimists. And cultivating a sunny state of mind is as easy as sleeping on the left side of the bed: According to British research, people who do so are 39 percent more likely to have a positive outlook than those snoozing on the right. Scientists theorize getting out of bed on the left side activates brain regions that govern emotion, helping you see the positive.
Make it a double!
That second cup of coffee just upped your odds of having longer-than-average telomeres by 29 percent. So say NIH researchers, who note that two cups of java daily delivers chlorogenic acid and diterpenes, compounds that block DNA damage.
Snack on almonds.
In a study at Brigham Young University, people who enjoyed a single serving of nuts or seeds daily had significantly longer telomeres than those who rarely ate the foods — a difference that reduced cell aging by 1 1 ⁄2 years. Researchers credit friendly fats, amino acids and polyphenols, which combat telomere shortening inflammation.
Cut a rug.
Easy activity, like dancing while puttering about slows telomere shortening so well that research in Preventive Medicine found active adults’ telomeres measure up to 9 years younger than those less active. Exercise increases telomerase, an enzyme proven to markedly slow telomere aging.
Phone a friend.
Chatting with friends offers powerful protection: University of California research suggests it can stave off 11 years of telomere shortening. Friendships ease stress, which curbs harmful inflammation, says William Li, MD. “It also spurs the release of oxytocin, a hormone shown to slow telomere shrinking.”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.