How well we age is actually something we can control. We are learning more and more that there are correlations between our “aging,” in other words how long we remain healthy versus suffering from some form of chronic disease, and the length of the ends of our DNA called telomeres. Certainly, the idea of “lengthening your telomeres” is so much a part of the public discussion that products are using this as a catchphrase for marketing.
So I think it’s important to bring this whole notion of telomeres as markers of disease risk and perhaps more importantly as playing a mechanistic role in aging to a better level of understanding.
This is why I have asked Dr. Elissa Epel to spend time with us today. Elissa Epel, Ph.D. is a Professor and Vice Chair in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at University of California, San Francisco. Her research aims to elucidate mechanisms of healthy aging, and to apply this basic science to scalable interventions that can reach vulnerable populations. She studies psychological, social, and behavioral pathways underlying chronic psychological stress and stress resilience that impact cellular aging. She also studies the interconnections between stress, addiction, eating, and metabolic health. With her collaborators, she is conducting clinical trials to examine the effect of self regulation and mindfulness training programs on cellular aging, weight, diet, and glucose control.
Dr. Epel studied psychology and psychobiology at Stanford University (BA) and clinical and health psychology at Yale University (PhD). She has received several awards including the APA Early Career Award, the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research Neal Miller Young Investigator Award, and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.
Dr. Epel’s research has been featured in venues such as TEDMED, NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s Morning Show, 60 minutes, National Public Radio, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and in many science documentaries. She co-authored The Telomere Effect with Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn, and it’s the book we will focus on in our time together.