We’re all born packed with potential—literally full of the stem cells that make the young so resilient. As we age, our stem cells decrease, and the symptoms of aging are the result: slower healing, brittle bones, nails, and hair, and skin that wrinkles where it used to spring back into place. Low endothelial progenitor stem cells (EPCs) inversely correlate with every cardiovascular problem you can think of: the fewer stem cells you have, the more problems go unfixed, and after a while those problems compound and tax your limited resources.

In studying the health of those who live into the triple digits, we search for what makes them so unstoppable. One of the world’s oldest women, Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper from the Netherlands, lived to 115 years old. Reports say that even in her advanced age, van Andel-Schipper’s showed no signs of Alzheimer’s or other age-related diseases, but Scientists at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam say at the time of her death, she had just two blood stem cells. Her supply of reparative stems cells may have finally run out.

The stem cells you’re born with will gradually die out and diminish as you age, but it’s not a totally finite supply; your body can still generate these fixer cells, if it’s fed the right nourishment. Boosting the specialty cells that help replenish your tissues is a strong defense against the symptoms and damages of aging. High levels of stem cells can mean a long, healthy life.

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