New blood test predicts how long you will live

TelomeresI saw a report on FOX News today that I had to look into. It was about a $700 blood test that measures the length of a person’s telomeres. Telomeres are “caps” on the ends of chromosomes that prevent them from “fraying” as cells replicate. If the telomeres become too short, the cells can’t divide and eventually die. That’s the process of aging.

The test is controversial because of privacy worries and what might happen if our employers or insurance companies knew the results. With that risk, would you want the test? And would you marry someone with short telomeres who has little time to live?

Fortunately, this Huffington Post article gives hope for living longer even if you already have short telomeres. It describes lifestyle changes that reduce stress and improve general health and happiness, and how that can actually reverse the aging process by lengthening the telomeres.

Scientists have also done lab experiments on mice that gave even greater promise. They genetically engineered a bunch of mice without a protective enzyme that resulted in shortened live spans of about six months. At the sixth month approached, the scientists reversed the genes and the mice became young again.

No testing has been done on people yet, but these types of discoveries might be good reason to get in shape and make lifestyle changes now. NET: Don’t worry; be happy.

Don’t Just Blame Dementia

By Michael Friedman, L.M.S.W., Adjunct Associate Professor, Columbia University’s schools of social work and public health (reprinted from Huffington Post, 4/3/11)

After a person has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, subsequent emotional, mental, cognitive, and behavioral problems are usually blamed on the disease. Other possible reasons including behavioral disorders such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse or ordinary human reactions to tough realities are very often ignored.

“Grandma seems terribly sad.”
“Of course, she has Alzheimer’s”
“Grandpa has been nasty lately.”
“It’s the Alzheimer’s.
“Uncle John doesn’t enjoy life anymore.”
“Who would? He has dementia.”
“Mom isn’t eating much or isn’t taking her pills or isn’t getting any exercise.”
“It must be the Alzheimer’s.”

Not necessarily. In fact, blaming dementia very often gets in the way of understanding what is really going on and doing something about it that will help.

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