The Role of Stress on the Aging Process

Stress and AgingStress makes you look and feel older. If you don’t believe it’s true, go look at pictures of any president when they start their first term and in their last year. Four years of chronic stress can take a huge toll on someone’s health. In fact, chronic stress has been shown to cause a number of deadly diseases. In contrast, reducing your stress can add decades to your life and contribute to a higher quality of life.

Stress Ages Your Cells

The hormones and chemicals released during stressful times damage your cells. Scientists know that stress has a direct impact on cells based on studies that measured the length of DNA sections called telomeres.

Telomeres are like the end caps on your long strands of DNA. They essentially protect the information on your DNA strand. However, as we age, these telomeres shorten. Stress causes them to shorten more rapidly.

Telomeres and Aging

When your telomeres become too short the cells die or they can become damaged. This damage can lead to diseases like cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s and heart disease. Studies have shown that people with stressful jobs, for example, have shorter telomeres so they know that stress has a dramatic impact on your cellular health and ultimately on your lifespan.

Stress Ages Your Brain and Causes Hearing and Vision Loss

Scientists have learned that people who live a more stressful life have a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s. They’ve also found that women, who tend to live a more stressful life, have a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s than men. Women’s brains tend to age more quickly than men’s, too.

Stress also impacts your cardiovascular system. It causes inflammation. When your blood flow is impeded by inflamed arteries, your brain, eyes, and even your ears and sense of smell don’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need to stay healthy.

So What Can You Do?

It’s true that stress leads to premature aging and disease. Therefore, reducing stress can have an impact on your lifespan – it can help you live longer. There are a few simple things you can do to reduce the stress in your life.

1. Listen to classical music – Did you know that Mozart and other classical musicians can actually reduce cortisol levels in your brain? Cortisol is the hormone that is released when you’re stressed, and too much cortisol can be damaging.

Relaxing to Music

2. Stay connected to friends – Laughing with friends and communicating with people that are important to you helps you better manage stress.

3. Find a creative outlet – Journal, dance, paint or take photos. Find an activity that you enjoy and that helps you relax and express your creativity.

Finally, try to identify the big stressors in your life and take small steps to reduce them. Simple steps like exercise, eating right, and meditating can make a big difference in how you manage stress. If you want to improve both the length and the quality of your life, take steps to reduce stress. It’s a big factor in premature aging.

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