On stress and aging



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 inlaughing_elderly_woman 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.

Animal studies

According to a report by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland

As we get older, our health tends to decline, but in addition to this, environmental factors make us age. Our age in terms of years may not correspond to the body’s true age.

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.

Human studies

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:

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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