When it comes to aging, the date on your driver's license may not mean as much as the condition of your telomeres. These tiny segments of DNA are like caps on the ends of your chromosomes, protecting them from breakdown. The more your cells divide over time, the shorter your telomeres get. When they're critically short, the cells stop dividing; shorter telomeres have been linked to increased cancer risk as well as shorter life-spans. On a happier note, you may be able to slow the hands of telomere time. A few research-based strategies:

Take up tap dancing, tennis, pickleball, and Zumba.

Fitness dilettantes, rejoice: A 2015 study of 6,500 people at various ages and activity levels suggests that the more types of moderate to vigorous exercise you participate in, the longer your telomeres tend to be. People who stuck to one activity were about 3 percent less likely to have the shortest telomeres than their sedentary counterparts, while those who clocked two types of exercise were 24 percent less likely. For those who did four types, the figure jumped to 52 percent. The associations were strongest for subjects ages 40 to 64, so middle age may be the best time to expand your repertoire.

Skip the late show.

A 2014 study published in the journal Sleep found that adults age 60 and older who slept six hours or more a night had telomeres about as long as (or even longer than) people up to 15 years younger.

Kick your soda addiction.

According to research from the University of California, San Francisco, drinking a 20-ounce regular soda daily is associated with the equivalent of an additional 4.6 years of biological aging.


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