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Duraimani, Shanthi Lakshmi Chinnasamy
Lifestyle modifications such as practicing the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program,
maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise could help to overcome age-related disorders
and promote healthy biological aging. Biochemical, physiological, and psychological studies
have revealed their positive effect, although the effect on telomerase gene expression and
telomere length is poorly understood. Therefore, the goal of this research study is to determine
whether lifestyle modifications will support healthy biological aging. Two independent studies were conducted for this purpose. First, a National Institute of Health (NIH) funded randomized pilot study was conducted using two intervention groups (24 TM + health education (HE) group
and 24 enhanced health education (EHE) group) with Stage I hypertension African Americans.
Second, a cross-sectional study was conducted using 19 long-term meditators and 19 nonmeditator
controls. Telomerase gene expression (hTR and hTERT) and relative telomere length
of peripheral blood cells by quantitative real-time PCR technique was measured in both studies.

In the NIH pilot study, Wilcoxon matched pairs tests showed a significant difference in
the medians for hTERT (TM + HE = 0.03, p = 0.05; EHE = 0.60, p < 0.01) and hTR (TM + HE =
0.34, p < 0.001; EHE = 5.48, p < 0.001) in both groups. Dependent t-tests showed significant
differences for systolic BP (TM + HE = -5.53 ± 11.23, p = 0.02; EHE = -9.00 ± 11.41, p < 0.001)
in both groups and diastolic BP in the EHE group (EHE = -4.93 ± 7.05, p < 0.01). These findings suggest that intensive lifestyle modifications may be effective in promoting healthy biological aging.

In the cross-sectional study, the Kruskal-Wallis test indicated a significant trend for hTR
in long-term meditators (long-term meditators = 0.74; non-meditator controls = 0.45, p = 0.08).
Analysis of covariance showed a significant difference in psychological stress in long-term
meditators (long-term meditators = 26.60 ± 3.95 non-meditator controls = 43.20 ± 0.68,
p < 0.001), adjusting for BMI, exercise, smoking, intake of vitamins and omega-3. Future
research is warranted with larger sample sizes to further evaluate the impact of TM on
telomerase gene expression and telomere length.

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