Your Aging Enemies

Major Ager: Bad Genes and Short Telomeres
Its Effect: Memory Loss

Maybe you've been dealt a bad hand of genetics, but that doesn't mean you can't exchange a few cards, or at least change how you play them! When it comes to your body and longevity, here's what we know: It's less about what genes you have and more about how you express them. Genes work by manufacturing proteins, but whether or not a specific gene is turned on or off is largely under your control. For example, exercise isn't good for you just because it helps burn fat, but it can also alter the expression of your genetic codes to decrease your risk of getting cancer. So how else do you change the function of your genes? One way is through the rebuilding of the tips of your chromosomes, called telomeres. Think of them as being like those little plastic tips of shoelaces—once these protective coverings are gone, your DNA begins to fray, which can contribute to age-related conditions like memory loss. One way to avoid losing your telomeres? Learn to manage stress—telomeres of people who feel more stressed are almost 50 percent shorter than people who say they're less stressed.