A lot of research documents a link between chronic stress, poor health and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and decreased immune function.

First I want to point out that the negative effects of stress are related to chronic stress not acute stress.

As an example, exercise is causing acute stress and that is beneficial, that's why exercise works. We adapt to the stress and get stronger, get better endurance, get faster or get better coordination depending on what kind of exercise we do. Exercise can also provide beneficial biochemical changes.

It's like inflammation. Acute inflammation is beneficial, it helps us heal faster from an injury, and it protects us from pathogens like bacterial and viral infections.

It's the chronic inflammation that is harmful. So how does stress affect your aging? This is really interesting, both chronic stress and also perceived stress are associated with higher oxidative stress and shorter telomeres (Epel ES, et al. 2004). Women with the highest levels of perceived stress had, on average, telomeres shortened by the equivalent of at least one decade of additional aging compared to low stress women.

If you remember from the last article, telomeres are the DNA-protein caps at the end of chromosomes which protects the genomic DNA from damage. Chronic stress and perceived stress also lower telomerase activity. Telomerase is an enzyme that elongates telomeres. This means that chronic stress makes you age much faster. The solution is to train yourself to be more stress resistant. High psychological hardiness has even shown to be related to less body fat and higher HDL, the so called good cholesterol (Bartone PT, et al. 2015). Meditation has shown to be an effective way to decrease reactivity to stress (Duchemin AM, et al. 2015)

Bartone PT1,2, Valdes JJ1, Sandvik A3,4. Psychological hardiness predicts cardiovascular health. Psychol Health Med. 2015 Dec 11:1-7.

Duchemin AM1, Steinberg BA, Marks DR, Vanover K, Klatt M. A small randomized pilot study of a workplace mindfulness-based intervention for surgical intensive care unit personnel: effects on salivary α-amylase levels. J Occup Environ Med. 2015 Apr;57(4):393-9. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000371.

Epel ES1, Blackburn EH, Lin J, Dhabhar FS, Adler NE, Morrow JD, Cawthon RM. Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Dec 7;101(49):17312-5. Epub 2004 Dec 1.


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