Does stress ages us?
Certain stress occurrences can have a negative impact on our wellbeing.
Earlier posts "Don’t get stressed about stress!" and "The Right Pressure is Good" (21 Feb 2019) talked about some of the positive impacts of short-term stress. Both also highlighting that;
In the UK the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) statistics are that a whopping 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17, and, in 2009/12 - 44% of that stress was due to workload!
Studies have also highlighted how stress can impact the body detrimentally: -
- disturbing sleep patterns
- impact Cortisol and disrupt levels of insulin, raise blood sugar, affect appetite and fat absorption in the body
- Suppress the effectiveness of the Lymphatic System and Immunity
So what other stress can impact how we age?
Environmental stress increases ageing.
The indication came from a study undertaken at the University of Edinburgh, whilst scientists were counting wild sheep! Their research showed that those wild sheep enduring tough winters were more prone to illness as they aged
Indications from research into emotional distress show that it impacts the ageing process.
The age that we are and the length of time emotional stress is sustained plays a crucial role in the ageing factor.
Short term stress seems to be beneficial, keeping us alert. Whereas, sustained emotional stress over long periods of time has a negative impact on the ageing process.
Depression, anxiety, isolation and trauma can all impact telomere length.
What can science tell us about stress?
X and Y chromosomes sit in the nucleus of each cell in our body. Chromosomes carry our DNA (inherited coding)
The ends of chromosomes have a protective coating. This is called a leukocyte telomere.
Indications from research are that the length of a leukocyte telomere is an indication of ageing. Longer telomere’s indicate slower ageing. Lengthening of telomeres also indicated a decrease in certain illnesses, such as coronary heart disease
Early indications are that telomere length may be impacted by inherited DNA - however more research needs to be undertaken to understand telomere length and what may affect this.
As well as inherited genomes, telomeres may prove to be a marker for our lifestyle choices and environmental factors during our life
Is telomere length static? It seems that the consistency of telomeres is changeable, depending on environmental and lifestyle factors
How can we improve the ageing process?
A study undertaken in Belgium by the Institute of Neuroscience and the De Duve Institute looked at the role of Physical Activity and Nutrition in telomere length. They concluded that: -
"A healthy diet characterized by a high intake of dietary fibre and unsaturated lipids exerts a protective role on telomere health, whereas high consumption of sugar and saturated lipids accelerates telomere attrition. Those effects are likely to be globally mediated by oxidative stress and inflammation, as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of nutrients are associated with longer telomeres. Physical activity may protect telomeres but more research is needed to establish a consensus on the optimal exercise dose (Figure 2). The beneficial effects of physical activity on telomeres could be driven by an increase in telomerase activity following an acute bout of exercise in PBMC, an alleviation of oxidative stress and a TERRA renewal in skeletal muscle. Further investigations are needed to study the other possible mechanisms contributing to the exercise-induced beneficial effects on telomere length and integrity"
The advice seems to be; avoid smoking, processed foods, harmful fats, environmental stress and pollution.
Increase your intake of plenty of fresh air in nature, good dietary fibre, fresh vegetables, fruits and healthy fats, engage in short bursts of positive stress and physical exercise.
The Milk of Human Kindness!
Meditation and the meditative states of relaxation that can be achieved through holistic therapies are shown to be beneficial to our perception and management of stress. Researchers are showing more interest as to why and what may be happening in our bodies.
Love and Compassion also have a beneficial impact on telomere length!
Researchers in the USA conducted a study on two groups who had never previously meditated.
For 6 weeks one group practiced Mindfulness Meditation, the other Group practiced Loving-Kindness Meditation.
The study showed that Loving-Kindness Meditation; which focuses on expressing love, kindness and caring for others, may be improving telomere strength and effectiveness and therefore can help with how we age.
Live life with the heart!
You may be taking prescription medication, or perhaps suffering with long term illness, in which case it's always recommended to first talk with your GP or regular Health Care Practitioner before undertaking a course of holistic therapy.