High Stress Levels Can Make You Age Faster

Stress Makes You Look Old

A new study suggests women who have high anxiety levels will age faster. Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) shows that a common form of anxiety, phobic anxiety, was associated with shorter telomeres in middle-aged and older women. The study suggests that phobic anxiety is a possible risk factor for rapid aging.

“Many people wonder about whether — and how — stress can make us age faster,” said study researcher Dr. Olivia Okereke, a psychiatrist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “This study is notable for showing a connection between a common form of psychological stress — phobic anxiety — and a plausible mechanism for premature aging.”

Researchers did a cross-sectional study from blood samples obtained by 5,243 women, age 42 to 69 years, who were participants in the Nurses’ Health Study. They took the blood samples and analyzed telomere lengths, as well as the participants’ self-report of phobic symptoms on a validated questionnaire with questions like: “Do you have an unreasonable fear of being in enclosed spaces?” and “Do you feel panicky in crowds?”

Women with the most severe phobic anxiety had telomere length 0.09 standardized units below average (P=0.02 versus less phobic women), Olivia I. Okereke, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard in Boston, and colleagues reported online in PLoS ONE.

“The magnitude of this difference was comparable to that for women 6 years apart in age,” researchers noted.

Telomeres are the portions at the ends of our chromosomes, the packaged-up version of all of our DNA, which are critical for proper cell functioning. They protect the important parts of the chromosome from deterioration by slowly sacrificing themselves. It’s thought that some of the issues associated with aging and some cancers may be caused by telomere shortening, which can lead to dysfunctional cells with incomplete chromosomes that die or go rogue, reported by the researchers on PLoS ONE.

Certain techniques like, mediation may help slow the rate of cellular aging. Researchers say that meditation reduces stress, builds a positive mood by keeping the mind away from negativity and causes hormonal changes that help in maintaining telomere length.

The study was published on July 11 in the journal PLoS ONE.

Know When You’re Under High Stress Levels

Your body speaks your mind. It’s important to know when your stress levels are hitting an all time high and you need to take a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual vacation.

Resetting our emotional and physical health is so important. Remaining in a constant state of stress, overwork and activity can keep our body in a state of fight and flight. This prolonged state can lead to illness and disease, reduces our efficiency level and can make us age faster.

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