Is Stress Making You Age More Quickly?

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Everyone has their go-to, stay young tricks.

From Oil of Olay, an apple-a-day, to pop’s workout routine we have all received tidbits of anecdotal advice on living a young, stress-free, long life. You might have even heard about the oldest person in Great Britain, 112-year-old Grace Jones, that credits her long life to a dram of single malt whiskey each evening. But if everytime you look in the mirror it feels like time is flying, it may be time to check your stress levels.

Stress levels, bad habits and a poor outlook on life are never fixed in stone.

Chronic stress has been connected to aging inside (heart, memory, and gut) and out (skin, weight). The power of our brain makes it possible to change your patterns at every stage of life. It’s never too late to make positive changes.

 

Read on to learn more about how you can fight father time by stopping stress in its tracks.


1. Neuroscience has found chronic stress can impact our brain in many ways, triggering long-term changes in brain structure and function. And as we age, memory may be the first thing we notice to decline in our daily lives. Stress may be the culprit if you’re feeling more forgetful than normal. Stress can put us in a ‘fight or flight’ mindset, producing an overload of the aging stress hormone--cortisol. A University of Iowa Study linked elevated levels of cortisol — a natural hormone produced by the adrenal glands — to memory lapses as we grow older.


2. Got a cold you just can’t kick? Feeling way to ‘meh’ for way too long? As we age, we find stress may be to blame for our immune system woes. After age 50, it’s been found prolonged periods of stress, unhappiness and depression can contribute to a suppressed immune system. The translates to wounds healing slower and other infections lasting longer---from the everyday flu to bronchitis (2002 study).


3. It may seem obvious, that stress is connected to your heart, but the effects go far beyond this single organ. High blood pressure, aka hypertension, can cause lasting damage to your blood vessels resulting in serious health consequences. As hypertension patients age, they are 40 percent more likely to develop cognitive impairment. Aging naturally shrinks the brain, and hypertension accelerates this process [shrinking].


4. It’s no surprise our skin reflects what’s going on in and around us. Stress, though invisible, can take a big toll on your skin’s youth (just look at any ex-President). That nasty cortisol causes problems with your skin as well, increasing oil production. Stress can also aggravate skin issues like psoriasis, rosacea, as well as eczema, hives and other skin rashes.


5. If you’re experiencing some unexplained weight gain, it might be wise to take a look at your stress levels. Not only does cortisol put us in fight or flight mode, but it also helps our body hold onto fat. So that stress cupcake will be sure to stick to our belly as we age. Stress also impacts glucose production, which can contribute to the development of diabetes. So be sure to make controlling your weight a priority.


To maintain optimal health as we age, managing stress is imperative. Try daily meditation, fishing, yoga, or another activity that keeps you zen. Personally, I think gardening is the perfect ‘me time’ because you get fresh food in return!

 

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