How Stress Causes Aging

How Stress Causes Aging

Though brief moments of stress have been shown to help increase focus, sharpen vision and prepare the muscles to take action (call it the animal instinct in all of us), chronic and acute stress actually lead to a range of physical and mental health issues.

Chronic secretion of the stress hormone cortisol can contribute to heart attacks, weight gain, and trigger memory loss, depression and unhealthy habits, such assmoking, drinking or overeating. Stress also contributes to aging – internally and externally – actually damaging our DNA.

Facts About Stress

Stress damages health at the cellular level, so managing it promotes and protects cellular integrity. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center recently released study results that better explained the stress/DNA damage connection.

They found that chronic stress triggered certain biological pathways that ultimately led to DNA damage, ranging from aging skin to graying hair, and even the proliferation of diseases and malignancies. Chronic stress decreased levels of the vital protein p53, which researchers believe is the reason for chromosomal irregularities. To learn more about this study, click here.

According to the “Stress in America” survey by the American Psychological Association, 44 percent of Americans say their stress levels have increased over the past five years. So what can you do to zap the stress? Here’s what a few experts believe works best:

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. Make a list of stressors you can control and those you can’t. Begin tackling the list of stressors you can control.
  • Laugh – find opportunities daily to laugh.
  • Take up tai chi or yoga – the breathing exercises can counteract cellular damage from stress.
  • Music – yes that Celine Dion song you secretly have buried in your iPod can keep stress levels at bay.
  • Workout – this may go without saying, but working out is a great stress reliever.
  • Get outdoors or play with the dog.
  • Take time for yourself.

You typically don’t have to tell guys to “take time for themselves.” We’re pretty good at zoning out in front of the boob tube. But rather than watching replays on ESPN, try escaping for an hour or two for a spa trip. I’m serious! This is a great way to clear the mind chatter and release some serious stress. Besides, you may be able to find a spa that actually combines the best of both worlds – massage/facial and ESPN. There are salons that are just for men and facials created specifically for men’s skin– so you won’t leave smelling like flowers, and you will get better results, too!