Background: Short leukocyte telomere length (TL) and accelerated telomere attrition have been associated with various deleterious health outcomes, although their determinants have not been explored collectively in a large-scale study.
Material and methods: Leukocyte TL was measured (baseline N=2936; 6-year follow-up N=1860) in participants (18-65 years) from the NESDA study. Baseline determinants of TL included sociodemographics, lifestyle, chronic diseases, psychosocial stressors, and metabolic and physiological stress markers. Multivariate linear regression models were used to examine the associations between these determinants and (1) baseline TL, and (2) 6-year TL change. Multinomial logistic regression analyses were used to examine the predictors of telomere attrition and lengthening, as compared to stable TL.
Results: Short baseline TL was associated with older age, male sex, non-European ethnicity, cigarette smoking, recent life events, and higher triglycerides, glucose and pre-ejection period (R(2)=11.3%). The 6-year telomere attrition was inversely associated with baseline TL (R(2)=51.6%); also older age, long sleep, not having a partner, high childhood trauma index, and gastrointestinal disease were associated with 6-year TL attrition (additional R(2)=3.7%). Telomere attrition seemed to have slightly more predictors than lengthening.
Conclusions: Sociodemographic, lifestyle, psychosocial stress and metabolic and physiological stress factors are cross-sectionally linked with TL. Telomere attrition over six years was strongly associated with baseline TL, suggesting an internal homeostatic influence. Modulation of the identified determinants may become target of future studies to promote telomere maintenance and healthy aging.
Keywords: Autonomic nervous system; Cortisol; Inflammation; Lifestyle; Metabolic syndrome; Telomeres.
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