Professor of biology and physiology at the University of California, San Francisco; in 2007 was named by Time magazine one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Blackburn's studies suggest that psychological stress is associated with, and possibly speeds up, cellular aging.
"My research shows how chronic stress directly interferes with the ability of our cells to renew tissues in the body [which is linked to accelerated aging]. It made me realize I'd better take stress seriously," says Blackburn. "So I learned to meditate. I don't have to do this for hours: If I can get myself into a calm, relaxing mode for just a few minutes, it helps."
The most damaging form of stress comes from situations in which you feel powerless, Blackburn says, such as caring for a chronically ill child or aging parent. But for anyone stuck in a difficult situation, Blackburn believes in focusing instead on sources of stress that are controllable: "Put a financial plan in place, for example," she advises. In tense times, Blackburn tries to find the things she can change and manages those. "Simply exercising regularly pays back dividends because when you feel healthy," she says, "you feel more in control."