A team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen has been conducting an ongoing study of over 20,000 Danes in which each individual’s DNA has been isolated and their telomere lengths analyzed. The results so far have shown that in individuals with short telomeres, the risk of heart attack and early death was increased by 50 and 25 per cent, respectively.
“The risk of heart attack or early death is present whether your telomeres are shortened due to lifestyle or due to high age,” says Borge Nordestgaard from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen. “That smoking and obesity increases the risk of heart disease has been known for a while. We have now shown, as has been speculated, that the increased risk is directly related to the shortening of the protective telomeres – so you can say that smoking and obesity ages the body on a cellular level, just as surely as the passing of time.”
This study may make it possible for simple blood tests to be administered in the future which measure a person’s telomere length and show their cellular age.