Stress doesn’t only make you look older, it ages your genes as well Are you sometimes surprised by your own reflection? The person in the photo, no longer looks like the person staring back in the mirror. Perhaps, you have seen a significant change in the appearance of someone you know. That demanding job, life’s challenges, the grief of something unexpected, politics and the list goes on. All these things can take a toll on an individual’s appearance and contribute to premature aging in appearance.
Stress is, however, everywhere and almost inevitable. Even when you feel relaxed, your body continues to be under stress, and this time a biological one. Baseline biological stress is the one that contributes to aging rapidly.

On the other hand, too much stress overrides your basal biological reactions, which are useful. Although this is a conclusion, we are still far away from understanding all the pathways of stress resulting in these outcomes. The major pathway that demonstrates the effect of stress on aging is over-release of stress hormones into the blood stream. Over time, stress overload can cause a chronic imbalance of stress hormones that can lead to aging rapidly.

Stress hormones mainly target your blood vessels and your heart. Prolonged stress decreases your body’s ability to control the cardiovascular system and moderate its responses. Once the cardiovascular response is out of control, stress hormones start to increase blood pressure and thus age your arteries. This is why, we heart surgeons are desperate to control blood pressure. It may appear as though doctors are placing an unnecessary significance on hypertension, but the facts remain true. This is just the beginning, and we are not close to a good result unless people help us with their efforts in changing their lifestyles.

When stress continues and becomes chronic, it results in a continuous release of stress hormones that causes your body to stay alert and able to respond quickly to surrounding dangers. They work in contrast to insulin hormones. This is why when people are stressed or traumatized their blood sugar levels tend to rise. Your body acts this way just to let your tissues use the sugar in the blood as energy throughout the recovery process instead of storing it in muscle or fat cells. When this constant hormonal release continues, ironically, the constant attack causes a decrement in the body’s ability to sense problems, prevent fatalities and avoid battles. Stress, however, also suppresses the immune system and its response, making the body prone to infections.

Simply put, stress triggers many pathways that cause aging, and when all these come together, it results in premature aging. There is a genetic study confirming the effect of stress on aging. Research conducted at Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston was able to demonstrate a link between sustained severe stress and premature aging. More than 5,000 women aged 42 to 69 years old were questioned in a survey regarding their phobias and anxiety experiences, in addition to blood sampling. Telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of cell chromosomes, were the target of the analysis. Shortened telomeres basically mean that your cells will age faster. The study cohort was divided into groups according to their phobia status, and the results showed a difference in telomere lengths between women who were highly phobic and those who were not. It was shown that women who suffered from phobic anxiety had shorter telomeres.

The difference in telomere lengths is thought to cause six years of age difference. In light of this research, we can literally say that stress ages you physically, chemically and genetically.

So beware.

There is however good news. Exercising at least three times a week can reduce the side effects of stress. It will not eliminate the damage it causes entirely, but it is a start. Other things that can contribute to lowering stress levels or
recovering from the damage caused are as follows:

1
Your health and wellbeing is your first priority Most people are not aware of their bodies’ condition until it’s too late. Whether its stress or any other disease causing trouble in the system, it is important that you are aware of the problems in advance, simply by just listening to what your body is saying.

Apart from listening, it is also important to know how to protect yourself from the troublemakers: stress and its damage. We all know that stress is a leading cause of poor health. Don’t forget that it is in your hands to reduce and stay away from unnecessary stresses in your life.

2 Sleep is essential for maintaining good health. Sleep effects both mental and physical health. It is a natural healer, the time of opportunity for your body to repair itself from all sorts of stress that attacks it during the day.

If you are able to routinely get enough sleep, you are helping your body in its ability to cope with stress. You may feel the difference right away after a good night sleep, by just feeling calm the next day.

3 Eat well, drink well, breathe smart Good food is the energy source that provides you with nutrients aiding in growth, fighting disease and self-rejuvenation. Unhealthy food can affect stress levels just by causing inflammation, meaning cellular stress. Metabolizing junk food or other unhealthy alternatives such as processed food is itself a stress source. Go for healthy and natural diet plans for a better life and a better mind. During spring and summer your body will need more fluids than it did during winter. Be wary of dehydration and drink enough water.

Symptoms of stress and dehydration are very similar in general. Dehydration and stress both cause tachycardia (increased heart rate), nausea, fatigue and headache. Go for water instead of soft drinks or alcohol, those that also have withdrawal effects (another stress type). Oxygen is the most important but least remembered nutrient for your body. Just because you do not feel it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look for it. Have you experienced or heard of psychotherapy sessions where the patients are asked to take deep breaths? I am sure you have. Breathing smart helps reduce stress, treats depression and anxiety and clears up your mind, and even under normal circumstances it helps you calm down right? Yes, because you brain is the major oxygen user in your body! These are why you should be eating and drinking well, as well as breathing smart.

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