Discovering the path to a better life. Dr. Elaine Chin, founder of Executive Health Centre and author of Lifelines, explains how new breakthroughs into DNA research could help you to live a longer and healthier life.
But the most important asset that any of us will ever hold is our health.
We need good health to enjoy those riches that we may have accumulated in our lives, which leads us to our guest tonight, who says Nobel Prize-winning breakthroughs in health science-- DNA sequencing, to be specific-- has opened up a world of promise when it comes to living longer and healthier.
And she's written a book to show people what they can do to achieve just that.
Dr. Elaine Chin is founder of the Executive Health Centre and author of Lifeline: Unlock the Secrets of Your Telomeres for a Longer, Healthier Life.
Nice to have you here.
I still trip on that word, telomeres.
I don't want to say it, but that is how you say it-- te-lo-meres?
Everybody's going to say telomeres soon.
Well, tell us what is a telomere?
Well, telomeres are the tips of your chromosomes.
So that's your DNA.
And they are like, using an analogy of a shoelace, they're the tips of your shoelaces, the plastic aglets.
And they keep your chromosomes or your shoelaces from unfraying unnecessarily.
So we're born with a certain length of telomeres.
And as we grow and repair, these telomeres begin to shorten.
And when you get to a critical short length, that's when trouble starts.
So how you live out your life will determine how quickly or slowly you burn your telomeres.
So what we say is, as your chromosomes get unstable, you start producing abnormal proteins.
And when your repair mechanism of your body fail, then we start to create conditions that set up for chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, arthritis, for example.
Now, are you-- and this is a very uneducated question-- your telomeres, you want to prevent them from shortening, as you mentioned, or fraying.
But once they are, can you do anything about it?
Or is this a preventative conversation?
When you get to a critical short length, there's not much you can do.
So what we want people to understand is there are a lot of things you can do for most of your life to keep them healthy and robust as long as possible before you get to that critical short length.
And again, work with me here.
What causes, what are the kinds of things that cause, those telomeres to shorten or fray?
So for a long, long time now, critics would say that while wellness is just kind of soft, but wellness and practice of it is truly driven from science.
So we know that there are a lot of situations and lifestyle factors and eating habits that affect your telomere length.
So if we can practice better, healthy lifestyles, the odds are you're going to improve your odds of getting and staying healthy.
So what do we need to do?
So some of the practical things that people say are true, unfortunately, which is-- Eat my veggies.
Eat your veggies.
But let's talk about the more interesting things.
Understanding specific nutrients, like antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories-- so they're found in your vitamin C's, which are your fruits and vegetables.
Your antioxidants-- those are those.
And then omega fatty acids are really potent forms of anti-inflammatories.
As well, your sunshine vitamin, vitamin D, is really important.
So those are good things.
The other things that are really important to recognize is stress does, in fact, prematurely shorten your telomeres.
So there are studies that show that people who are chronic caregivers of ill children or adults actually have shorter telomeres.
And so the opposite is when people have a long, purposeful life and they find life purpose, their telomeres are longer.
So we want to be able to adjust those things.
And those are-- eating more vegetables-- very simple to do.
Check mark, I think, on that.
Finding your purpose in life and being not stressed?
That's a tougher one to do.
And so one of the things in the workplace that I always say is that if you're under chronic, severe, negative stress, whether it's at work or at home, you need to find a way out of it.
If you can get yourself out of it, you can get yourself into a healthier world.
And your telomeres will love you for it.
Naive question-- how does one measure?
Is this a study that's been done, and therefore we know we all need to do this?
Or is there a way to tell my own state, so to speak?
So there are lots and lots of papers now written around telomere biology and factors that affect it.
So the test is very simple.
It's a blood test.
And some people would suggest that you can even do a saliva test.
So today, you can come to my office and get your telomeres tested.
So you can actually measure your absolute telomere length and assess your quantity of critically short telomeres.
So and if you do that, then I guess the next question is you would say, therefore, you would say, OK, you have an issue.
Here's what you need to rectify this.
So I say to you, it's just like stats.
It's like if you're in the median range, that means you're like the average population.
And I would rather you be in the upper quartile.
So certainly, if you're in the lower quartile, I think it's a warning sign to say, I think you've burned enough telomeres.
It's time to smarten up.
And if you have a chronic condition, is there something-- what can you do to help with that?
Because that's the thing I was asking in the beginning, is once they're frayed and shortened-- Yeah.
So we don't want to push it over the edge even more.
So if you've been having a lifestyle that you're thinking whether you're going to stop smoking or you think you should be more active or get more sleep, you should.
What about-- I think what's fascinating about this is, again, you're taking Nobel Prize science and you're dialing it down to, OK, what does that mean for me day-to-day?
And actually, how do I change things and on a preventative basis?
Health care has always been traditionally acute.
We take care of people once they're sick and they're already in a hospital.
Do you see a move to really moving more towards the preventative side of things?
Well, I think it's there now.
First of all, the book got published.
We're talking about it.
And part of my role as TELUS's Chief Wellness Officer is that companies like TELUS have committed and funded dollars towards prevention programs and wellness offerings.
So, in fact, in the business world, it's actually a growing area.
So in Canada, we expect in 2015, it's a $150 million market.
So there is a place.
Now, in five years from now, I think that not only are we going to be looking at prevention, but to look at it in a very precision medicine base so that we're going to be measuring telomeres.
We're going to look at genetics.
We're going to look at nutrient toxicity profiles.
We're also going to merge it with our technologies of wearables and helping you as a consumer understand your lifestyle so that you're not guessing.
I am exercising.
Have I done enough exercise or enough steps?
Or I know I should be sleeping more.
But wow, I didn't know I was waking up that many times that night.
So maybe I'm not getting restful sleep.
And then you want to be able to work cohesively with a team of people.
So more and more now in the whole wellness market, you're not just seeing medical doctors getting engaged.
So we're looking at nutritionists, naturopaths, chiropractors, holistic practitioners.
And all of these people need to understand the technology of the science and the technology of the digital health world.
Great to have you here-- fascinating topic.
Dr. Elaine Chin, founder of Executive Health Care and author of Lifeline: Unlock The Secrets of Your Telomeres for a Longer, Healthier Life.