September is Healthy Aging®Month in the US, an annual observance month designed to focus attention on the positive aspects of growing older. Last week, September 18 was National Aging Awareness Day in the US.
That is why I take this opportunity to focus on the relationship between stress and aging.
Stress can put more lines on your face and turn more hairs into grey. But it is not just the outward signs of aging that is linked to stress. It’s the overall aging process that includes health problems and illnesses.
Aging (also spelled as ageing) is defined as the process of becoming older, a process that is genetically determined and environmentally modulated. One of the environmental factors that contribute to aging is stress in many different forms. Below I summarize a couple of recent research studies on the link between aging and stress.
According to a report by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland
The researchers studied the effect of environmental stress (e.g. harsh winters) on the health of sheep and found that stress has a long term effect on the animals’ health. What’s more, if these stressors are persistent, they actually have a cumulative effect that accelerates the aging process. Thus, animals with more stress exposure aged faster than those who had less. And with aging comes weaker immune system and age-related illnesses.
In the recent issue of the Journal of Cell Biology, researchers from the Rockefeller University reports that prolonged stress exposure induces cells to release its calcium stores, leading to apoptosis or cell death. Apoptosis is behind many age-related diseases.
Tips on how to slow down aging
There is no such thing as an Elixir of Life that can stop aging and death. However, our lifestyle can strongly influence our longevity. Here are some tips from Medicine.Net:
- Eat a balanced diet, including five helpings of fruits and vegetables a day.
- Exercise regularly (check with a doctor before starting an exercise program).
- Get regular health check-ups.
- Don’t smoke (it’s never too late to quit).
- Practice safety habits at home to prevent falls and fractures.
- Always wear your seatbelt in a car.
- Stay in contact with family and friends.
- Stay active through work, play, and community.
- Avoid overexposure to the sun and the cold.
- If you drink, moderation is the key.
- When you drink, let someone else drive.
- Keep personal and financial records in order to simplify budgeting and investing.
- Plan long-term housing and money needs.
- Keep a positive attitude toward life.
- Do things that make you happy.