We are designed to have 24-hour rhythms to our physiology and metabolism. Our bodies have an internal clock that we refer to as our circadian rhythm. This internal clock is influenced primarily by light exposure during the day and darkness during the night. Ideally, sunlight at sunrise “sets the clock” while darkness after sunset “winds the clock down.” We have a wake cycle, activated by light exposure, during the day and a sleep cycle, activated by darkness, at night. Many organs show daily changes in their function based on circadian influences. Genetic expression, which genes are turned on and which genes are turned off, is also directly influenced by circadian rhythms. In fact, thousands of genes change their expression according to circadian rhythms throughout the day and night. Continue reading
Telomeres are the protective caps at the ends of our chromosomes. They are the biological clocks of our cells. Each time our cells divide and our DNA is replicated, we lose some telomere length. Telomere length is a marker of biological aging. We age as our telomeres shorten. Telomere shortening is involved in all aspects of aging and chronic disease.
If we could maintain telomere length we could prevent cellular aging! If we accelerate the shortening of our telomeres we accelerate aging. If we slow the rate of telomere shortening we slow the rate of aging. Research reveals that our lifestyle choices impact the rate of telomere shortening, and as a result, our rate of aging. Continue reading
We are all familiar with the “fight or flight” response to a stressor. This well-known stress response is activated automatically by our body to help us through any stressful situation. When we are exposed to a physical or emotional stress, our sympathetic nervous system is turned on and stimulates our adrenal glands to pump out epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. These hormones released from the adrenal gland help us acutely to survive the stressor at hand. The stress hormones help focus our attention, heighten our senses, increase our heart rate, increase our blood pressure, and rapidly mobilize energy for fuel. The stress response arms us for action.
The activation of the stress response gives us what our body needs to utilize immediately, whether we choose to “fight” or “run like hell”. Our chances of surviving any stressor are contingent on the activation of this acute stress response. After the stressful event, our body is able to recalibrate stress hormone levels and allow us to return to our baseline. The stress response works extremely rapidly to activate our nervous system, immune system, cardiovascular system and metabolism. After the stressor, when we relax, our body is able to activate the relaxation response and take us off “high-alert ” status. Continue reading