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Having Children Later in Life, Longevity, and Telomere Length

x-chromosome-telomereA recent study has suggested that having children later in life has been linked to female longevity.  More specifically, the ability to have children later in life has been linked to longer telomeres and may be a marker for healthy aging on a cellular level (1).  What is a telomere?  What does having children have to do with cells?  Please, read on.

You remember from science class that chromosomes look like an X or a Y and hold all our genetic data.  What you might not know is at the end of each X or Y chromosome are little protective caps called telomeres.  T.A. Sciences (a leader in telomere science) likens telomeres to the plastic coating on the end of a shoelace that keeps the shoelace in tact.  Like those plastic shoelace caps, telomeres prevent the chromosomes from becoming damaged.  If the telomeres become damaged, DNA strands become damaged and our cells can’t do their job properly or efficiently (2).

Scientists have learned that the condition of our telomeres is linked to our body’s aging process and decline– as we age, telomeres naturally become shorter.  However, what we do to our body can affect the length of our telomeres as well.  Poor diet, smoking, drug abuse, ingesting other toxins, and lack of exercise can all shorten our telomeres and contribute to cell decline (2).

Scientists have found that women who are able to have children later in life seem to have a greater incidence of longer telomeres on their chromosomes.  Longer telomeres mean more protection for the chromosomes, and less cellular decline and aging.  What does this mean?  This means that there might be a relationship between extended maternal age, biological aging, and life-span.  So if you’re worried about having a child later in life, these findings might ease your mind (1).

 

Sources:

(1) Fagan, Erin, MPH, et all.  “Telomere Length is Longer in Women With Late Maternal Age.” Copyright 2017.  Medscape.  http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/880037_1

(2)  T.A. Sciences.  www.tasciences.com/what-is-a-telomere/

 

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