Clues to Increased Longevity in Women vs. Men

Dr. Elissa Epel was interviewed in Healio Endocrine Today about the science behind longevity.

“Longevity, when not healthy, is not something people seek as a goal for their later years of life. It’s the health span, our years of healthy living, that we want to focus on and maximize.”
— Dr. Elissa Epel

A message from Elissa Epel, AME Director: What does wisdom have to do with health span?


At the Aging, Metabolism and Emotion (AME) Center, we study the emotional, psychological, and biological components of aging, and how life experiences shape our aging trajectories. Our inquiry has led us to better understand the many ways to have a healthy relationship to how our mind works, and how to cultivate positive habits that support a long healthspan.

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Part of a long ‘healthspan’ is from learning how to contend gracefully with the stressful experiences inherent in our life. Often, with aging, comes a resilience to the things that stress us out easily when we are younger.  With age, we develop more wisdom about how to live well, focusing on what is most meaningful, and not sweating the small stuff

These perspectives can be fleeting, and it’s an effortful task to remember and embody them in how we live each day.  When I turned 50, I asked some friends, including scientists and contemplative teachers, what their favorite wisdom quotes were. I wanted to share this compilation “Quotes to live by” with anyone interested.

(Thank you Samantha Schilf for the beautiful formatting!)

You can see the full 12 page book for yourself by downloading it below.

UCSF Leads the 12th Annual SSEW Symposium: The Exposome & Metabolic Health

On September 19, 2018, the Sugar, Stress, Environment & Weight (SSEW) Initiative hosted the 12th Annual SSEW Symposium, “The Exposome & Metabolic Health.” The symposium centered around the topic of toxics and how exposures in our social, psychological, and physical environments can negatively affect our healthspan in the form of metabolic disease.

The event invited key researchers, healthcare providers, and environmental health and policy advocates from across the UC campuses to give Ted-style talks in a day-long conference that was open to the public. Speakers discussed the role of social relationships, chemicals found in everyday items like beauty and hair care products, and our food environments in encouraging negative health outcomes such as obesity and diabetes, breast cancer, and even Alzheimer’s.

Talks were given by the following notable experts and included the following topics:

  • Dr. Eve Ekman: a leading scholar and instructor of meditation and emotion regulation opened the day with a guided mindfulness meditation

  • Dr. Tracey Woodruff: Director of the UCSF Environmental Health Initiative, offered an overview on the field of toxic exposures and impact on health outcomes

  • Dr. Aric Prather: Professor and Co-Director of the Consortium for Obesity Study, Assessment, and Treatment at UCSF, discussed how social environments and relationships can produce stressors that mimic environmental toxins, a concept called “the social exposome”

  • Dr. Barbara Laraia: Professor at UC Berkeley, discussed the compounding impact of social inequality and environmental exposures on health

  • Dr. Jenny Jay: Professor and Researcher at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, providing perspective on processed foods and water use in impacting environment and public health

  • Dr. Dale Bredesen: UCSF/UCLA physician and leading expert on neurodegenerative diseases, discussed how environmental toxins may lead to Alzheimer’s disease

  • Wolfram Alderson, MS: a social impact innovator and expert, discussed how individuals can remove toxins from their personal ecosystems and respective communities

  • Dr. Michele La Merrill: Professor of Environmental Toxicology at UC Davis, reviewed clinical research on the link between pesticides and metabolic health

  • Dr. Bruce Blumberg, UCI: Professor of Developmental and Cell Biology and leader in the field of “obesogens,” or exposures that disrupt our endocrine systems and promote obesity

  • Dr. John Balmes: Professor at UCSF, gave insight into the link between air pollution and metabolic health

An expert panel examined health policy and next steps in a session titled “Understanding Policy Implications and Actions: Multiple Paths to Change.” The panel included the following key community leaders, who spoke of the robust personal and professional experiences that informed their unique perspectives:

  • Dr. Laura Schmidt: UCSF Professor, Co-Director of the SSEW Initiative, and expert on food policy and food environment

  • Lauren Zeise: Director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)

  • Jeanne Rizzo: Breast Cancer Prevention Partners

  • Meg Schwarzman: UC Berkeley Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

Lastly, to give members of the public a chance to ask their most burning questions, a live panel was conducted via Facebook Live and moderated by Dr. Elissa Epel, UCSF. The panel included the following members:

  • Dr. Tracey Woodruff, UCSF: expert on the effect of chemical exposures in pregnant women and how they impact the next generation

  • Dr. Kimberly Harley, UCB: expert on youth exposures to toxic, endocrine-disrupting chemicals through beauty and hair products

  • Dr. Martyn Smith, UCB: leading researcher in diet and how environmental exposures impact child health and produce cancers

  • Dr. Candice Price, UCD: key leader in examining high-sugar diets and how they lead to metabolic disease and obesity

Did you miss the event? Visit UCTV to watch live recordings of each talk here!

Dr. Felder and colleagues make national news for groundbreaking research on insomnia during pregnancy

Sleep problems are common during pregnancy, but new research by AME researchers Jennifer Felder and Aric Prather indicates that more severe sleep disorders are associated with increased risk of preterm birth. They found that women with an insomnia diagnosis during pregnancy were at nearly two-fold higher risk of delivering before 34 weeks gestation. To learn more, see our article in the New York Times or listen to Dr. Felder’s interview on BBC World Service


These findings are important because approximately 1 in 10 pregnant women deliver their baby too early in the United States, and preterm birth is a leading cause of death before age 5 globally. It's possible that by treating sleep disorders, we can reduce the preterm birth rate.

However, there is very little research on how best to improve sleep during pregnancy. Drs. Felder, Prather, and Epel are studying whether digital cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is effective for treating insomnia during pregnancy. For more information on CBT, check out Dr. Felder’s recent article on goop. We are recruiting pregnant women to participate in the Research on Expecting moms and Sleep Therapy (REST) Study. Women can participate from anywhere because all study visits take place online or by phone. To find out if you are eligible to participate, take our 15-minute screening survey

We are really trying to help pregnant women and would love if you could spread the word about our study! 



Co-director Epel as "Aging Influencer"

This September, AME Co-Director Elissa Epel will be honored with the Alliance on Aging Research's prestigious 2017 Silver Innovator Award for her groundbreaking work on the psychological, social, and behavioral processes related to chronic psychological stress which accelerate biological aging. 

Her recent book (co-authored with Elizabeth Blackburn), "The Telomere Effect: The New Science of Living Younger," is a New York Times bestseller in the science category.

Why Sleep is So Crucial for Your Telomeres

Telomeres are the caps at the end of chromosomes that protect your cells and genes. When telomeres get short from aging, (or a lifestyle that promotes aging,), our cells cannot replenish. Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep these caps long and happy.

This week, we're taking a deep dive into sleep and cell aging. You are probably thinking: "Of course I should get a good night's sleep, I already knew that." But if sleep is so important, why is it that 45% of you are probably still chronically sleep-deprived? Do you skim off minutes of much-needed sleep each night, and let that add up to a deeply internalized weariness? Here is some new motivation for why you should become part of the well-rested majority: sleep affects your body all the way down to your cells!