In trying to understand why women age slower than men, researchers have looked at the rate of cellular aging. One of the biological differences from birth is that women have longer telomeres (the endcaps of DNA strands that protect chromosomes from deterioration). Scientists have long understood the importance of telomeres in healthy longevity. More recent studies have focused on those factors that affect telomere length and what can be done to protect them.
In her Keynote Address at the upcoming NAMS Annual Meeting entitled “Healthy Longevity and Telomeres: What Does Sex Have to Do With It?” Dr. Elissa Epel from the University of California in San Francisco will provide a detailed look at those factors that modulate telomere length, with special emphasis on women’s reproductive health, hormones and mental health. Longer telomeres predict less cardiovascular disease and, in many instances, a longer life for both men and women.
“Some experimental studies suggest estrogen exposure increases the activity of telomerase, the enzyme that can protect and elongate telomeres,” says Dr. Epel. She warns, however, that telomeres can be shortened prematurely by stress and chronic or childhood psychological adversity.