Older adults may face various stressors as they age, from financial worries to anxiety over selling a home to simply retaining their independence. We’ve all heard that worrying will give you wrinkles, but does it actually accelerate aging? More research is still needed on exactly how, but we do know that stress can contribute to premature aging.
3 Ways Stress Hinders Healthy Aging:
1. Stress ages the brain.
Chronic stress has been shown to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, and research shows stress may be why some women’s brains age more prematurely than men’s. Over time, the brain can lose its hormone-regulating ability. As a result, seniors who feel anxious may produce more stress hormones, and it may take longer to react to the “alarm” that tells it to stop.
2. Stress can speed up the biological clock.
A study by the National Academy of Sciences found that stress can actually add years to the age of cells. When a cell divides, the telomeres (caps at the end of a DNA strand) in that cell get shorter and a little time runs off the clock. When it gets too short, the cell can’t divide or replenish itself. Researchers checked the telomeres and stress levels of 58 women. On average, the cells of highly stressed women had aged by an extra 10 years.
3. Stress can contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle.
According to Vivian Diller, Ph.D., “People who are under stress are known to eat more poorly, exercise less, drink more and probably rely on medication. All of those things are going to show up on your body.” Developing healthy habits is critical to aging well. Exercise protects the aging brain, and conversely, sleep deprivation can accelerate aging. Less stress may not only promote health on its own, but it also provides a foundation for habits crucial to healthy aging.
Reversing the Aging Process:
“Successful agers” tend have a few things in common: They stay socially connected, exercise, keep active and manage their stress. Spending time with friends and family can serve as a stress buffer and is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety. Taking advantage of stress management tools like relaxation therapy and yoga, can also work wonders. From exploring a new hobby to enjoying a massage to simply listening to music, there are many ways to reduce stress and thus improve your quality of life.
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Reduce Stress & Boost Your Mood
On April 14, join us for Healthy Minds, a special presentation by Dr. Chasse Bailey-Dorton, renowned Co-Medical Director of Survivorship & Integrative Oncology at Carolinas HealthCare System. This event will offer insight and tips on stress management and healthy living as you age. RSVPs are required.
Click here for more details and to register to attend!