MENLO PARK (KPIX 5) -- If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you know the role stress can play on your life. From higher prices, traffic jams, growing families to lack of day care, chronic stress is as common as electric cars and smart phones.
Want to stay younger or slow the way you age? Well, there's a new test that may show you the way.
There's a test you can order from a Menlo Park lab called Teloyears that may reveal just how well you are aging. Instead of your biological age, the test will show you your cellular age. Three individuals took the test and reported their results for KPIX News.
They included reporter Juliette Goodrich, her mother Paulette, and Special Missions Aviator Jimmy Ford.
Juliette's mother Paulette eats well, sleeps well, and exercises daily. She ordered the test as soon as she heard about it.
"...I've always been curious about my health," said Paulette. "It was kind of fun for me to find out more about my lifestyle...healthy living lifestyle."
Jimmy Ford is a married father of three young children.
He flies on the HH G-60 Pave hawk helicopter as part of the 129th Rescue Squadron at Moffitt Federal Airfield. The squadron's federal mission is combat search and rescue in dangerous spots all around the world.
Jimmy has been deployed nine times.
"I'm interested to see what's going to come back as far as me. Am I going to be younger or am I going to be older?" remarked Jimmy.
According to surveys, serving in the military is the No. 1 most stressful job. Your life can be in danger as you defend the country or in Jimmy's case, as you rescue those who are injured or stranded in dangerous areas of conflict.
"There have been multiple situations that have been less predictable and a little hairy," said the gunner.
Juliette also took the test. It's well understood how news reporters like Juliette face tight deadlines on a daily basis under often unpredictable circumstances.
The test involves a kit, pricking your finger with a lancet, and sopping up a little blood with a little gauze strip. It costs about $90. You put your sample and all the used equipment back in a bag, and then mail it back in the prepaid envelope. It takes a few weeks to get your results.
Juliette finished her test, looked at her mom and wondered if she would end up older than her mom.
The simple genetic test measures the length of our telomeres, which are a unique DNA sequence that forms caps at the ends of chromosomes. Scientists refer to them as kind of like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces.
These tips tend to shorten and fray with age.
But stress, bad diet, lack of sleep, smoking, drinking, negative thoughts, and strained relationships can all make them shorten and fray faster.
And that can lead to premature aging.
"All of this relates to the role that telomeres play in aging and age-related diseases," explained Dr. Calvin Harley who is the founder, president, and chief science officer of Telomere Diagnostics in Menlo Park.
These age related diseases include cardiovascular disease and even cancer.
The results came back. Juliette and her mom discovered they both have the cellular age of 20. Juliette's teloyears is roughly half her biological age. Paulette chalks it up to their Greek heritage as well as to a good sense of humor.
As for Jimmy. He opened his results, and looked them over.
"It says my age in teloyears is actually older than my actual age," laughed the Special Missions Aviator.
Jimmy's actual age is 38. But the test revealed his cellular age is 58.
But there is good news.
"I'm not overly concerned because it is something I can change," said Jimmy.
The science shows how you can delay or reverse aging by taking care of your telomeres.
"There are a lot of studies in humans that show the kinds of things that can alleviate that shortening, and minimize it," said Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn who is with the Salk Institute. She won the Nobel Prize in Medicine while she was at UCSF for her work in telomeres.
She and UCSF Dr. Elissa Epel, who is a renowned expert in stress and aging, have compiled all the scientific data into an important new book called The Telomere Effect. Neither woman is associated with the Teloyears test.
In fact, they both say you don't need to take a test but that what you need is good information.
"People find it hopeful and empowering...there are so many things we can do," explained Dr. Epel.
By making changes you can begin to lengthen you telomeres in as little as a few months.
Jimmy is already coming up with ideas.
"Get more sleep, more positive outlook on things...maybe take a vacation..." he said.
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