Four steps to extend your life

Ever hear of a telomere? Most people haven't -- not yet anyway. But soon, everyone will know what a telomere is, because emerging evidence shows they play a critical role in aging.

Telomeres are the little caps that sit on the end of your DNA strands.

Over time, they shrink. It's a normal part of aging -- but the shorter they get, the higher your risk of disease and even death.

They've often been compared to a candlewick, slowly burning down. And when they reach the end... well... I guess you can say it's lights out.

Clearly, you want to slow that shrink as much as you can. And today, I'm going to help you to do just that.

I'm going to let you in on four simple steps you can take right now to slow telomere shrink and extend your life -- four steps backed by a new study of 239 post-menopausal women (but trust me, they will work for men, too).

They're safe, and they won't cost a penny.

That's the good news.

The bad news? Most people won't take a single one of these four steps.

They want to. They intend to. But these are the kind of steps folks like to put off until tomorrow.

And you know how that usually turns out.

Make yourself part of the few. Make these changes, because they can add years to your life.

The first step is to get some sleep. Few people get what they need, and the study confirms that missing out will speed the shrink of your telomeres.

There's no perfect amount of sleep that's right for everyone, but most people need 7-8 hours per night. More importantly, if you wake up feeling tired, you almost certainly didn't get enough.

Step two is to eat better. Yes, we all know diet is important, but the new study confirms that it's actually life-or-death important -- because lousy eating habits will also burn your telomeres down.

I recommend a healthy Mediterranean diet rich in the omega-3 fatty acids proven to actually help your telomeres to grow. (Discover more here.)

Third, get regular exercise. Women who move more have less shrink, according to the study. And we know from other studies that regular (ideally daily) movement is critical to your overall health.

Step four is the toughest one of all -- tougher than getting more sleep, harder than eating right and even more difficult than getting out and getting some exercise.

It's so hard because it's the one lifestyle factor you have the least control over: Stress.

Every major life stress speeds the shrink of your telomeres, according to the new study.

Now, you can't stop most of these things from happening. Part of life is facing these events and coming out the other side stronger.

But you can control your reaction to stress and help make sure it doesn't hurt you -- which is why I recommend natural techniques such as relaxation exercises, massage therapy, herbal treatments, scented essential oils and homeopathic remedies.

And when you're facing life's biggest challenges, don't be afraid to turn to the biggest stress-beater of all: prayer.