Stress and Aging
There has been much research in the past decade on the effects of stress on how we age. We start
aging from the day we are born, but do not become concerned about it until we approach mid-life,
when our bodies begin to lose some resilience and we begin to realize the need to take better care
of ourselves. Research is showing us how an overtaxed nervous system damages not just our
nerves, but also the cardiovascular and immune systems. Our minds and bodies are not separate,
but interwoven in intricate ways. I will list some of what scientific research has discovered. (Part of
this list is taken from Andrew Weil’s Nov. 2007 newsletter).
– Chronic stress creates an imbalance in the chemical messengers involved in arousal
or relaxation leads to strain on the heart, stiffening of blood vessels, weakened bones,
increased systemic inflammation, and reduces the immune response.
– Chronic stress interferes with glucose regulation. A body in the fight/flight mode keeps
blood-sugar levels up for the energy needed. When this response lasts a long time, the
risk of type 2 diabetes goes up, as does obesity.
– Chronic stress triggers unhealthy escapes, such as drinking, smoking, and overeating,
which contribute to unhealthy aging.
– Chronic stress, which create cortisol, an adrenal hormone, is toxic to neurons in the parts
of the brain related to memory, which can cause reversible memory loss in the short-term
and brain atrophy in the long-term.
– Chronic stress, especially in infancy and childhood, rewires the brain in such a way that
it affects how one perceives danger, reacts to it, and is able to calm down. This is why
childhood trauma makes one vulnerable to anxiety disorders and/or depression.
– Studies have shown that people who are depressed have high levels of immune system
chemicals called cytokines, which may hamper the body’s ability to destroy malignant
I hope this information will add to your resolve to make this a year in which you take care
of yourself, reduce the effects of stress, and resolve any underlying issues that create
anxiety and depression in your life.
I highly recommend you see Lars and the Real Girl, still out in a few theatres. This is a beautifully
performed movie, funny, profound, with much psychological sophistication. I think it is about
love, community and healing. See what you think.
From Albert Schweitzer: “Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human
being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.”