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The specialist in the study and explanation of the biological clock, Immaculata of Aliveteaches Medicine at Harvard Medical School, but is also Professor of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health as one of the world’s leading experts in the area, particularly in cancer genetics research.

The Dr. acknowledges that her goal is to “tear down the walls of the academic world and let other people know that they have the resources to improve their health within their reach.”

Biology of kindness. Six everyday decisions to improve health, well-being and longevity (Ed. Diana, from Grupo Planeta) is the first of the books in which Dr. Immaculata de Vivo and Daniel Lumera have pooled their knowledge in science and wellness: the only one available in Spanish. The trilogy continues with Ecology inside. How to free yourself from what contaminates the mind, body and the planet to lead a healthy and happy life (Ed. Mondadori), the second installment, and will close the cycle with The butterfly lesson (Ed. Mondadori).

by the hand of best seller daniel lumeraexpert in well-being sciences, quality of life and the practice of meditation, the scientist brings the most recent biological answers and research to understand why optimism, kindness, forgiveness, gratitude and happiness are core values ​​or “unconventional health resources,” says the expert, for a long, healthy and happy life.

If something is beyond doubt, it is that “our lifestyle, our behaviors and decisions affect our health”. For better or for worse, it counts Immaculata of Alive a magasINthis can improve our quality of life and delay the appearance of diseases or, on the contrary, accelerate their appearance or make them chronic. Maintain healthy DNA it is not trivial: “If you are kind to your DNA, it will be kind to you.”

for the teacher of harvard that is the main premise of biology of kindnessthe fact that there is a principle of unappealable reciprocity, and that suggests that our attitude towards life would be closely related to our health. With this, Immaculata de Vivo is landing the epigenetics to a non-specialist audience: “We know that genes are not changeable, but there are areas of DNA known as telomeres that can be changed“.

[María Victoria Martín, la gurú del metabolismo: “Hay alimentos que disminuyen el estrés”]

And, precisely, this discipline studies the relationship between genetic and environmental influences that determine genes. And this is where, the co-authors argue, the magic can happen. Of course, as long as we are willing to look on the bright side of things.

Improving our well-being: what is in our power and what is not

So, one of the questions that arises when looking through the book is if there is a biological marker that makes it possible to objectively measure the impact of lifestyle, both good and bad, in health. To the surprise of many, they exist: they are called telomeres, which are considered a biological clock, subject in which Immaculata de Vivo has specialized. The telomeres of an 80-year-old are shorter than those of a 50-year-old, which in turn are shorter than those of a 20-year-old.

'Biology of Kindness' Cover

Portada de ‘Biología de la gentileza’

“A medida que pasa el tiempo, las células envejecen y los telómeros se acortan. Cuando se acortan al máximo esas células viejas mueren en un proceso normal, pese a que hay otras razones que pueden acelerar este proceso”, cuenta la Dra. de Vivo: “El problema es que estos telómeros se acorten de forma prematura, porque se traduciría en un riesgo de contraer enfermedades crónicas de manera temprana”. 

Lo interesante, apunta la Dra. de Vivo, es que las personas que contraen enfermedades crónicas de manera prematura presentan telómeros más cortos que sus coetáneos. Aunque la longitud de los telómeros está condicionada en un 50% por la herencia genética, los factores ambientales y sociales desempeñan un papel casi más determinante en el ritmo de envejecimiento de cada persona. 

Tal y como ha podido comprobar en sus investigaciones, fumar acorta los telómeros y, por ende, acelera el envejecimiento. Pero al mismo tiempo cabe destacar que, aunque en distinto grado y dependiendo de cada caso, la contaminación atmosférica tiene el mismo efecto.

La clave es, entonces, dar con un estilo de vida que posibilite un envejecimiento a ritmo normal y no acelerado: “El envejecimiento celular es irreversible. No vas a vivir para siempre, pero puedes hacer uso a los recursos de salud que te permiten mantener la normalidad en tus procesos biológicos”. 

Hay estudios que demuestran que una alimentación deficiente acorta los telómeros, así como otros dan cuenta de que “la dieta mediterránea es la más saludable y nutritiva, tanto en España como en el resto de países mediterráneos“. Otras actividades, como el ejercicio físico o la meditación, también ayudan a proteger los telómeros.

[6 claves de experta para no perder la motivación a la hora de practicar deporte]

“We have verified with patients with cancer and cardiovascular diseases that any type of positive psychology allowed them to respond better to the treatments”, says De Vivo: “We realized that the practice of kindness could reduce anxiety“.

Know how to respond to stress

The Harvard expert maintains that this defense mechanism is one of the most fascinating and complex in human life. evolutionan “explosion of extremely fast biochemical reactions that pursue a single objective”: the survival. It is a response that speeds up the heartbeat and increases cortisol, adrenaline and blood sugar levels, which maximizes the energy available to flee or fight the predator.

[Los efectos del estrés en la mujer: así influye en la regla, las relaciones sexuales y la fertilidad]

“We will never get rid of stress,” De Vivo qualifies: “The problem begins when stress becomes chronic“. The psychological pressure to which we are subjected makes this extremely necessary timely biological mechanism keep us alert in the long term.

The chronic stress is one of the factors that have the most potential to accelerate aging. It is a way of compromising our health: “Your heart rate and insulin levels are always high, your digestive system slows down and can impact your immune system.” In this sense, he maintains that the book proposes a series of very valuable ideas for encourage inner calm: “You can’t avoid stress; you have to know how you respond to stress.”

[Si quieres engancharte al yoga, sigue a estas ‘influencers’ del bienestar y la meditación]

In 2007, when cancer biologist De Vivo was going to give talks on the impact of stress on telomeres, she was struck by a comment from a fellow oncologist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA): ‘I know what you’re talking about. you speak and I understand the science behind it, but I don’t know if I believe it.’ Over time, Dr. from Harvard has been able to prove that yoga and meditation make breast cancer patients respond better to treatment. In fact, now “UCLA has a whole center for cancer treatment related to meditation and yoga, because all these mindfulness exercises reduce stress.”

Gentleness: an evolutionary stimulus

biology of kindness is an accumulation of reflections that go beyond the psychology of the individualwhich delve into the spiritual benefits of create social bonds: “Even exchanging a smile and these types of gestures favor social ties. Because none of us could survive alone: ​​we can only do it in a group, connected and helping each other, right?”.

La Dra. Immaculata de Vivo ha escrito estos libros porque ha probado en sus propias carnes, y en otras personas, los efectos de la gentileza: “Un término que reúne todos los otros comportamientos positivos, como la bondad, el optimismo, la empatía o la compasión”. 

La razón por la que la experta de Harvard se ha hecho tan popular entre sus colegas de Psicología, Psiquiatría y Ciencias Sociales es porque no han logrado respaldar con datos sus propuestas y estrategias, cosa que ha aportado De Vivo con el objetivo de hacer “que la gente se sienta en disposición de gestionar su propia salud”. 

Si Darwin estuviera vivo, ¿qué diría?

Preguntada sobre lo que diría Charles Darwin, padre de la Teoría de la Evolución, sobre el mundo que habitamos, frente al de la era preindustrial, la bióloga del cáncer, epidemióloga e investigadora de Harvard suelta una carcajada antes de responder: “Si nos fijamos en la mortandad general, vemos que han avanzado los antibióticos, la medicina moderna y las vacunas. Sin embargo, no se puede negar que nuestro medio ambiente ahora es muy diferente de lo que era hace 100 años. Tenemos crisis climáticas globales por todas partes”.

[Las consecuencias del cambio climático que ya notamos en la Tierra]

In fact, he is working on a initiative on climate change at Harvard from a holistic vision: water, food, sustainability, health and access to healthcare, among others. Dr. Ella acknowledges that climate change is forcing the entire Earth “to work together to find a way to keep our home.”

So “Darwin would say that the greatest pressure on genes is exerted by the environment, recognizing that genetic changes take a long time.” blooms again curiosity and Immaculata de Vivo’s inner conversation as a researcher: “I know this is kind of a joke, but could there be, I don’t know, a way for species to adapt to carbon dioxide? I don’t know, but from my point of view personal view, if it occurs, it will not happen in the short term because evolution takes a long time“. And he concludes: “I don’t know what Darwin would say, but he would certainly be exclaiming something like: ‘Wow, this is interesting!'”.

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