People of all ages experience stress of some sort. The difference is how they can handle stress. If you’re someone who’s been emotionally distressed for a long time, expect some signs of aging that might come sooner than you think.
Young vs. Old: The Ability to Handle Stress
Suppose there are two persons, one is young and another one is old. Same level of stress can affect them differently. Whether it’s from exercise, illness, emotions, or whatever, the younger one tends to handle stress better compared to an older one.
Older people tend to have higher cortisol levels even in normal, non-stressed situations. But they also tend to release just as the same amounts of stress hormones as younger people. However, younger people are more likely to recover faster from stress, so they’re able to get their cortisol levels back in their normal ranges.
In an animal study, the ability to turn off the stress response after the stressor is gone also appears to be linked to a slower growth of cancer cells, so the younger ones appear to fend off cancer better.
In a study of teachers in Finland, older teachers, with an average age of 54, were shown to have higher cortisol exposure and higher blood pressure compared to the younger group, with the average age of 31. It was found that the older teachers were less able to recover from the same high levels of job stress which is why they have higher cortisol levels than the younger teachers, who showed reduced cortisol levels after work.
Psychiatrists from Stanford University have shown that caregivers of chronically ill patients have cortisol levels that are much higher, which may be associated to development of mental dysfunction later in their lives.
The Role of Cortisol in Aging
Intense, long-term emotional stress can get you sick and grow old faster. It was shown that chronic stress appears to speed up the shriveling of the tips of the bundles of genes inside cells, causing to shorten lifespan and deteriorate body more quickly.
Research suggests chronic stress damage starts before we’re even conceived and cuts into our very cells. At the end of a DNA strand, there is a protective casing called telomere. Several studies have linked stress with shorter telomeres, which is linked to cellular aging and risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Cells divide themselves. When they do, they lose a bit of telomeres. It can be replenished by an enzyme known as telomerase. However, the supply of these enzymes decreases when your body is under chronic stress.
So if the telomere is very low, more often than not, the cell dies or becomes pro-inflammatory, setting you up in a faster aging process as well as health risks that come with it.
Healthy Habits for Stress Management
Whether we like it or not, we’re bound to get old. But it’s up to us to slow down aging and keep ourselves healthy.
Do as best as you can to avoid or reduce excessive and prolonged stress. If that’s not possible, go with the right choices when it comes to exercise regimen, dietary intake and sleep patterns. Also consider taking nutritional supplements to complement your diet. These all can go a long way toward slowing down some of what we now see as age-related changes in how our bodies work and how we look and feel.
Stress is the new biological clock. It is so powerful that it can accelerate our aging. How we live our lives will indicate how fast or slow we age. Make an effort to develop stress reduction behaviours and attitudes so that you can better deal any stresses you encounter.
Be happy. Stay young. Stay healthy!