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A healthy lifestyle can help fight stress-related cell ageing, latest research shows.

Stress has long been known to leave a negative impact on the normal structure of cells and thus accelerate the ageing process. The study reported in the Molecular Psychiatry, mainly focused on telomeres - sections of the DNA found at the ends of chromosomes- that play a major role in division of cells and ageing process. The length of telomeres becomes shorter with each stage of cell division. Shorter telomeres cause cell death and ageing. Though telomeres become shorter with ageing, previous studies have linked it to depression.

In the study, following a healthy lifestyle- regular exercise, healthy diet and sound sleep- was associated with fewer telomeres shortening.

"The study participants who exercised, slept well and ate well had less telomeres shortening than the ones who didn't maintain healthy lifestyles, even when they had similar levels of stress," lead author of the study Dr Eli Puterman, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of California - San Francisco (UCSF), said in a news release. "It's very important that we promote healthy living, especially under circumstances of typical experiences of life stressors like death, caregiving and job loss."

For the study, researchers looked at 239 post-menopausal women. All the participants were non-smokers. During the one year study, researchers measured length of telomeres in blood samples collected from the women and also monitored their physical activity, dietary intake and sleep quality. The participants also self-reported details of any stressful events they went through in the past one year. Women who never followed these healthy habits had shorter telomeres compared to those who made healthy lifestyle part of their daily life.

"This is the first study that supports the idea, at least observationally, that stressful events can accelerate immune cell ageing in adults, even in the short period of one year. Exciting, though, is that these results further suggest that keeping active, eating and sleeping well during periods of high stress are particularly important to attenuate the accelerated ageing of our immune cells," Puterman explained.

Apart from ageing, shorter telomeres have been linked to a wide range of deadly diseases like stroke, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, vascular dementia and osteoporosis diabetes.

Efforts to beat ageing process have been a topic much exploited lately. In February this year, a team of scientists at the National Institutes of Health in the US, announced that they have developed an anti-ageing pill that activated a protein called sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) and improved life expectancy. Another research carried out by Dr Margo Adler from the University of New South Wale (UNSW), claimed that calorie restriction helped to slow down ageing and improved life expectancy.