Life Extension Magazine®

Couple learns that shorter telomeres leads to heart disease

Protect Telomeres from Premature Shortening

Shortened telomeres are associated with accelerated aging. Selenium + CoQ10 was clinically shown to reduce the shortening of telomeres in humans.

Scientifically reviewed by: Gary Gonzalez, MD, in November 2023. Written by: Mark Fields.

In March 2023, the Wall Street Journal reported on a study showing that people over age 60 with shorter telomeres were three times more likely to die from heart disease and eight times more likely to die from infections.1

Shortened telomeres are associated with accelerated aging and higher risk of all-cause mortality.2

For decades, scientists have searched for ways to slow the shortening of telomeres.

An easy way to reduce the progression of telomere shortening has now been discovered.

Results of a clinical study showed that, in those who took a selenium-CoQ10 combination for four years, there was a remarkable 49% lower rate of death due to cardiovascular causes compared to placebo.3

A recent sub-study utilizing data from these participants was published in the medical journal Nutrients. Scientists found that the combination of selenium and coenzyme Q10 significantly reduced the attrition of telomeres in subjects' cells.4

This is a potentially game-changing development and adds evidence to the benefits of selenium and coenzyme Q10. Halting telomere shortening, on top of the known benefits, would be huge.

Most readers of this magazine have supplemented with CoQ10 and selenium for many decades.

What Are Telomeres?

Telomeres are protective caps for your genetic material. Every chromosome—long, elaborately folded strings of DNA found in every cell—has telomeres on both ends. They help shield the DNA structure and keep the genetic material stable.2,5

Early in life, telomeres tend to be long and healthy. But with time, as cells age, telomeres shorten. When they become too short, the chromosomes are prone to damage and dysfunction. This causes cells to age and eventually die.5,6

Scientists have shown that longer, intact telomeres are associated with excellent cellular health, and may be associated with longevity. On the other hand, shortening of telomeres is associated with aging and chronic disease.2,6,7

For these reasons, the prevention of telomere shortening is a major interest of anti-aging research.

Selenium and CoQ10

Selenium is a trace mineral and is essential to the proper function of certain enzymes, specifically those involved in defense against oxidative stress and the damage it causes to proteins and cellular DNA.

Many older adults have low selenium levels.8 Observational studies have shown low levels of selenium are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.9

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a lipid-soluble antioxidant naturally found in every cell of our body. It is critical to the health of mitochondria, cellular powerhouses that supply the energy cells need to survive and function.10 After age 20, production of CoQ10 begins to drop, and older people often suffer from inadequate levels.10,11

Although selenium and CoQ10 play distinct roles in promoting health, they have an intimate connection. In other words, they are better together.

As CoQ10 provides energy to the body, it becomes inactive. One of the enzymes that can convert the inactive CoQ10 back to the active form—called ubiquinolrequires selenium.10 

At the same time, CoQ10 is required for selenium to be properly incorporated into essential body proteins.12

Impede Telomere Shortening

Several trials in the past have assessed the impact of selenium and CoQ10 on mitochondrial, cardiovascular, and metabolic health.

One such trial was of 675 older adults with low selenium levels who were randomized to receive either a placebo or a combination of 200 mcg of selenium and 200 mg of coenzyme Q10 for four years. A significant reduction in cardiovascular mortality was seen in the treatment group as compared to placebo.11

A recent sub-study of this trial was conducted, and telomere length of the participants in the earlier study evaluated.4

In the selenium-CoQ10 group, the rate of telomere shortening was significantly reduced compared to placebo.

While telomeres in the placebo group continued to shorten, the average length in selenium-CoQ10 users was stable or even slightly increased.

The ability to halt telomere shortening over a four-year period in elderly adults is an extraordinary finding. Even more impressive is that, in this study, shorter telomeres were associated with more cardiovascular disease and a shorter life, while selenium and CoQ10 supplementation preserved telomere length and resulted in less cardiovascular death.

What You Need to Know

Preserve Telomeres and Reduce Cardiovascular Death

  • Telomeres protect the genetic material in every human cell. With aging, they tend to shorten, and this change is associated with increased risk for chronic disease.
  • A study in older adults with low selenium found that oral intake of selenium and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) could slow or stop the shortening of telomeres over a four-year study period.
  • Those receiving the treatment had significantly lower rates of death due to cardiovascular causes during a follow-up period of 12 years.

Better Heart Health

A clinical trial found that older people who took a combination of selenium and coenzyme Q10 for a period of four years, experienced a lower rate of death due to cardiovascular causes (including heart attack, stroke, and heart failure), which was reduced by more than half.12

Researchers continued to collect data from participants, and results of two subsequent sub-studies have been consistent in regard to cardiovascular mortality.

Ten years after the end of this trial, the selenium-CoQ10 group was still 49% less likely to die from cardiovascular causes.11

Even 12 years after the end of the treatment period, the benefit persisted. A 41% lower risk in the active treatment group, as compared to placebo, was found in the second follow-up analysis.13 These benefits remained when looking at subgroups who had preexisting conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.


A study of elderly adults has demonstrated that taking selenium and coenzyme Q10 can impede telomere shortening.

Telomeres protect genetic material in cells. Their shortening is associated with increased risk of disease and death.

Protection against telomere shortening in those receiving the selenium-CoQ10 was accompanied by lower rates of death due to cardiovascular causes during follow-up of up to 12 years. This was true even in those with preexisting conditions.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.


  1. Available at: . Accessed September 20, 2023.
  2. Gruber HJ, Semeraro MD, Renner W, et al. Telomeres and Age-Related Diseases. Biomedicines.2021 Sep 27;9(10).
  3. Alehagen U, Aaseth J. Selenium and coenzyme Q10 interrelationship in cardiovascular diseases--A clinician's point of view. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2015;31:157-62.
  4. Opstad TB, Alexander J, Aaseth JO, et al. Selenium and Coenzyme Q(10) Intervention Prevents Telomere Attrition, with Association to Reduced Cardiovascular Mortality-Sub-Study of a Randomized Clinical Trial. Nutrients. 2022 Aug 15;14(16):3346.
  5. Vaiserman A, Krasnienkov D. Telomere Length as a Marker of Biological Age: State-of-the-Art, Open Issues, and Future Perspectives. Front Genet.2020;11:630186.
  6. Yeh JK, Lin MH, Wang CY. Telomeres as Therapeutic Targets in Heart Disease. JACC Basic Transl Sci.2019 Nov;4(7):855-65.
  7. Chakravarti D, LaBella KA, DePinho RA. Telomeres: history, health, and hallmarks of aging. Cell.2021 Jan 21;184(2):306-22.
  8. Alehagen U, Aaseth J, Alexander J, et al. Supplemental selenium and coenzyme Q10 reduce glycation along with cardiovascular mortality in an elderly population with low selenium status - A four-year, prospective, randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled trial. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2020 May 4;61:126541.
  9. Available at: . Accessed September 14, 2023.
  10. Aaseth J, Alexander J, Alehagen U. Coenzyme Q(10) supplementation - In ageing and disease. Mech Ageing Dev.2021 Jul;197:111521.
  11. Alehagen U, Aaseth J, Johansson P. Reduced Cardiovascular Mortality 10 Years after Supplementation with Selenium and Coenzyme Q10 for Four Years: Follow-Up Results of a Prospective Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial in Elderly Citizens. PLoS One.2015 12/01 06/17/received 10/12/accepted;10(12):e0141641.
  12. Alehagen U, Johansson P, Bjornstedt M, et al. Cardiovascular mortality and N-terminal-proBNP reduced after combined selenium and coenzyme Q10 supplementation: a 5-year prospective randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial among elderly Swedish citizens. Int J Cardiol. 2013 Sep 1;167(5):1860-6.
  13. Alehagen U, Aaseth J, Alexander J, et al. Still reduced cardiovascular mortality 12 years after supplementation with selenium and coenzyme Q10 for four years: A validation of previous 10-year follow-up results of a prospective randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial in elderly. PLoS One.2018;13(4):e0193120.