Peak performance and epigenetics

Peak performance and epigenetics

H.E. Dr Maryam Matar, MD, PhD

By H.E. Dr Maryam Matar, MD, PhD

Her Excellency, Dr Matar is the Founder and Chairperson, UAE Genetic Diseases Association. She is a leading healthcare influencer, and pioneered the study of genes and advocates public education and awareness of genetic disorders across the ME region. She serves as a Chairperson/senior advisor in over 15 international, regional and local committees for preventive healthcare initiatives, women in STEM, and youth leadership. Dr Mater has been recognised as the most powerful scientist in the UAE since 2014; amongst the top 20 Arab scientists with the biggest contribution to humanity by British Scientific Community 2016; amongst the “top 100 most influential Arabs in the world” recognised by Arabian Business for four consecutive years since 2013.

Peak performance is linked to epigenetics and enough scientific evidence is available to suggest that four essential elements with significant impact on peak performance and health are:

  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Meditation

Sleeping well is a key to optimal brain performance

child sleeping with mother watching 770pxA lack of proper sleep is linked to lower grades in studies as it affects concentration, memory, and the ability to learn. Sleep deprivation negative affects brain functions associated with the frontal lobes which are essential for intelligence, decision- making, and abstract thought.
DNA methylation, perhaps the most widely recognized epigenetic mechanism, is implicated in the connection between sleep and the body’s ability to fight off infections and diseases.

Regular exercise in everyday life

happy children playing football outside 770pxAbundant scientific research is available to support and demonstrates that moderate and regular physical activity is essential for everyone.

Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps cardiovascular system work more efficiently and improve health of human organs like heart, lung and kidney.

American Heart Association recommends that all children age two and older should:

  • Participate in at least 60 minutes moderate-intensity physical activities every day that are developmentally appropriate and varied.
  • Frequent breaks for physical activities must be incorporated in schedule for children.

Telomeres and meditation

MeditationTelomeres are unique DNA repeats found at the ends of the genetic material-bearing chromosomes and telomere length gives an overall reading of how healthy we are and our biological age.

Elizabeth Blackburn, a biochemist has won Nobel prize winner of 2009 for her discovery and work on telomerase and impact of meditation and other factors.

Her trials on ways to protect telomeres suggest that exercise, eating healthily and social support all help to protect telomeres but one of the most effective interventions is meditation.

Tips for creating an environment to boost for peak performance:

  • Leverage science of epigenetics for wellbeing and peak performance among students.
  • Strive to cultivate good sleep hygiene and habits among children.
  • Nutrition, a diet filled with balanced nutrients, and alkaline water support development, brain health and also immune system.
    Regular moderate physical activity is essential.
  • Scientific studies show that practicing meditation or mindful activities activates telomerase enzyme in our DNA, enhances our overall health and wellbeing.

A great tip for parents is to lead by example. Parents should try to be role models for active lifestyles and provide children with opportunities for increased physical activity.

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