Chronic Stress and Aging

As your bones creak, wrinkles deepen, or even worse, diseases set in, do you find that you’re looking for ways to slow down aging? We have no control over many factors, but one study has shown that there is a link between chronic stress and aging. Long term emotional strain such as seniors taking care of their elderly parents, can take its toll on health and aging.

The first study done at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) led by Elissa Epel, Ph.D. was conducted on a group of healthy mothers caring for chronically ill children. It showed that telomeres shorten in those experiencing psychological stress – i.e., they age the cells and hasten the body’s deterioration allowing the increased risk of diseases. Telomeres are caps at the end of chromosomes (molecules that carry genes) like plastic caps at the end of shoe laces to prevent fraying. When a cell divides, telomeres get shorter. In the natural aging process, the telomeres eventually get so short that cells can no longer divide, and they die producing all of the undesirable effects of aging. Telomerase is an enzyme which helps rebuild telomeres; telomerase levels also decline with age. Over time, however, telomeres do get shorter.

A key factor, however, is perception. The greater the perceived stress, the shorter the telomeres. In the above study, those with the highest perceived stress had telomeres equivalent to someone 10 years older.

In another study led by Edward Nelson, MD of the University of California at Irvine, their research suggests that stress management can stop telomeres from shortening and promote repair as well. The Hayflick countdown was being reset. (Hayflick discovered that after 50-70 cell divisions, a chromosome can grow no shorter and the cell it is in can divide no more). This study involved telephone counseling for women who had been treated for cervical cancer. The counseling worked mentally, physically, and improved their immune system.

In still another study, Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D. of UCSF (who shared the Nobel prize for the discovery of the telomerase enzyme that repairs telomeres), showed that exercise has a similar effect to counseling on the telomeres of the stressed.

The bottom line is the only difference among the subjects in all of these studies is attitude. So the good news is you can do something about chronic stress and aging.

Related Resources:

Stress may increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease

Stress and Cellular Aging
Dr. Elissa Epel, UCSF

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Stress in Middle Age Could Lead to Dementia

Recently, Medical News Today reported that stress in middle age could lead to late life dementia. In this study from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, almost 1,500 women were followed for 35 years and this is the first research in Sweden to indicate a link between stress and dementia. Stress has numerous definitions, but in this study, stress was defined as a sense of irritation, tension, nervousness, anxiety, fear, or sleeping problems lasting a month or more due to work, health, family or other problems.

Stress can be good or bad and the way you respond to a situation could also be a form of stress. We are constantly making choices and we can choose to stress ourselves or we can choose not to. For example, you can choose to get angry over something like catching all the red lights on the way to work when you’re already late or you can choose to ignore it or embrace and acknowledge it and move on. Many people like to blame others for their stresses, but only you can make that choice to be angry. I don’t know about you, but I know it’s not worth being angry. Life’s too short.

One of the things we know about dementia is that keeping your immune system strong is extremely important. Current Alzheimer’s disease research is targeting the immune system. What happens when you’re stressed?

  • Blood pressure rises
  • Breathing becomes more rapid
  • Digestive system slows down
  • Heart rate (pulse) rises
  • Immune system goes down
  • Muscles become tense

Over time, diseases may develop — diabetes, depression, obesity, tooth & gum disease, cancer, ulcers, etc. It’s been estimated that 90% of visits to doctors are stress-related! There are many Web sites devoted to stress and stress management. Click here or here for some ideas.

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Skin Agers

A Facial mask.

Image via Wikipedia

You don’t have to be a skin specialist to know that some people look far younger than their actual age while others look way beyond their actual age. Most seniors really care about eliminating their wrinkles and brown spots, but some don’t.  Have you noticed that low end cosmetics that you can find at drug stores and discount stores are jumping into the anti-wrinkle/anti-aging market big time?

How did we get the wrinkles and brown spots? There are the standard reasons such as stress, smoking, and lack of sleep. Recently, a short article appeared in Prevention magazine and was picked up by several online sources. They call it the three skin shocking skin agers:

  1. Driving
  2. Sipping from a sports bottle
  3. Eating too much sugar

What are the solutions? For driving, you need to make sure that you wear sunblock/sunscreen (at least SPF 30), move your visor to the left because the left side of the face and hands appears to be getting more wrinkles and brown spots. They also recommend wearing gloves. Of course, if you’re often a passenger in the front seat like I am, the opposite side of the face is affected. Sunblock/sunscreen needs to be re-applied every two hours if you’re in the sun. Your sunblock/sunscreen should also cover both UVA and UVB rays.

To avoid sipping from a sports bottle which causes vertical lip lines like smoking does, drink water from a glass or use a refillable travel mug.

Finally, limit your added sugar to no more than 100 to 150 calories or 6 to 9 teaspoons per day. Eating too much sugar will damage skin-firming collagen fibers when the sugar attaches to proteins to form molecules in your bloodstream.

Personally, I’ve tried many products, but am now getting great results with Natique. Click here for more information.

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Weight Loss Support — How Dr. Oz Can Help

Dr. Mehmet Oz

I love the Dr. Oz Show … and so do millions of other people. His show offers so many interesting and intriguing topics such as weight loss support, natural remedies, skin care, sleep, stress, healthy eating, obesity, depression, cooking tips, self help, supplements, vitamins, and many more including the most embarrassing questions. I don’t watch the show every day, but where I do watch it is at the gym. I’m generally at the gym every other day and if I’m there in the afternoon, I make it a point to watch the Dr. Oz Show while I’m on the treadmill. So I got to thinking, there are so many people that need to lose weight for health reasons, especially seniors, and here’s where Dr. Oz comes in for the weight loss support and to make walking interesting. Dr. Oz appeals to a broad range of people so he can offer you weight loss support by keeping you so interested in his program that you will stay on the treadmill for an hour. So that’s how Dr. Oz can help and give you weight loss support.

There are many ways to lose weight, but it first takes a commitment on your part. It is easier if you have your family or people that you can count on for support. Not everyone does. There’s a club — Club Shrinkit — where you don’t have to diet and it even pays you to lose weight, but exercise is recommended so I’m always thinking of ways to help people start walking. If you have any creative ideas to make walking interesting, please leave a comment.

I hope you’ll see how Dr. Oz can help you with your weight loss support and exercise program if you’re not already a fan. If you need to make that first baby step, check out this post. Click here.

Giving Part II

It’s a new year and times are tough. Money is not all you can give. We all know that there are always people in worse situations than we are and there are many ways we can help.

Are there people in your company who are paid the least, but do the most for others? In the last organization I worked for, it was the maid that made breakfast for our department on more than one occasion as a way of thanking us. It cost her money that she did not really have to spare. Now that I’m retired from that organization, I no longer see her, but she calls me just to see how I’m doing. The last call came on the eve of Thanksgiving. It did not cost her anything, but time and thoughtfulness. Is there someone you can call?

Recently I read a book called The Power of Giving. The authors, Azim Jamal and Harvey McKinnon, say that giving in the form of volunteer work has the following benefits.
1. Enhances the immune system
2. Lowers cholesterol levels
3. Strengthens the heart
4. Decreases incidence of chest pains
5. Generally reduces stress

Furthermore, they say if you want happiness, you need to give happiness. It is only in giving that you receive. However, they warn about balance. If you give too much it can result in negative health consequences. When you’re unhealthy, you cannot give. Take care of yourself first so that you can give to others.

Have you ever felt that you’ve given all you can? Azim in The Power of Giving was asked, “How do I give and be kind when I have already done that for twelve hours and yet another customer comes in?” Azim replied: “You have two choices of how to treat the customer – either with a frown or a smile. A smile requires you to use three muscles, while a frown requires sixty-three. You decide: How many muscles do you want to use when you are tired?”

With a smile and a grateful heart, I wish you all the best in 2009!

Please feel free to comment on other non-monetary ways you have given.