By Jack Edwards
Dr. Oz says that my telomeres are fraying, and he’s very worried about them. This “fraying” is apparently caused by stress. Sadly, now that he has alerted me to my telomere fraying problem, I have discovered a whole new level of stress.
Let me explain. Every Monday I read a column in my local paper supposedly written by Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen. I say “supposedly,” because with Dr. Oz spending all that time in the make-up room at his television show, creatively named “The Dr. Oz Show” and with Dr. Roizen busy doing real medical work as the chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, I figure that the column is really written by one of Dr. Roizen’s third year residents, that or one of Dr. Oz’s assistant make-up artists. It takes a lot of time to knock out a weekly column. I should know, and mine doesn’t even involve any research; let me emphasize this – NO research whatsoever. In fact, all my comments here are based on a single casual reading of this week’s column in which I may have missed the entire point due a mishap of spilling a glop of cereal onto what may have been the most crucial paragraph in the column. On top of that, I was still very sleepy.
Let me further explain. My usual Monday routine involves reading the morning paper, which as I have said includes Drs. Oz and Roizens’ column, and then committing myself to following their advice for the remainder of my natural life. I hold fast to this new, deeply held commitment until lunch. Then I remind myself that I’ve lived okay so far with my habit of, for example, basing my diet on animal fat and empty junk food calories, and ask myself why I should be listening to medical advice from Dr. Oz’s assistant make-up artist anyway.
Back to telomeres. Besides being a popular children’s television show, telomeres are the “caps” on the ends of our DNA. The longer your DNA caps the better. They help you ward off ailments, including heart disease, diabetes and, as I understand it, the danger of becoming a zombie or even a vampire. (I just made up that last part for your amusement – the part of about becoming a vampire. It really does help from becoming a zombie.) These telomere caps “fray” and get shorter as you age, but, BIG PROBLEM ALERT HERE, stress can accelerate the fraying! Naturally, I figure I’m already down to the nubs.
For those of you unfamiliar with Drs. Oz and Roizens’ column, they sneakily divide it into two parts. In the first part, they scare the hell out of you telling you that you’re doing everything all wrong (like not eating enough kumquats) and that it’s unlikely you’ll survive the day, and then the second part, which always begins with the word “fortunately.” This column did not disappoint.
“Fortunately…” the column continues, and goes on to list ways to reduce stress. The list includes mediation, deep breathing, time with friends, music and what they refer to as “just chill.” (Notably absent was the suggestion that people stop reading their column.)
They explain how to do “deep breathing,” and I have to confess that I was a little disappointed by the description. You’re supposed to breathe in through your nose counting to four, and then out through your mouth slowly counting to eight. Here’s how they describe the big payoff: “You’ll instantly increase the oxygen level in your blood by up to 3 percent. Not bad!” They actually say, “Not bad!” Three percent? Honestly? It sounds really bad. Terrible, in fact.
So, after considering my options, I’m going to focus my telomere saving efforts on music and “just chill.” In fact, I’m going to make them a permanent part of my lifestyle. At least until lunch.