Aging Forces: Chronic Stress

imagesWe are all familiar with the “fight or flight” response to a stressor. This well-known stress response is activated automatically by our body to help us through any stressful situation. When we are exposed to a physical or emotional stress, our sympathetic nervous system is turned on and stimulates our adrenal glands to pump out epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. These hormones released from the adrenal gland help us acutely to survive the stressor at hand. The stress hormones help focus our attention, heighten our senses, increase our heart rate, increase our blood pressure, and rapidly mobilize energy for fuel. The stress response arms us for action.

The activation of the stress response gives us what our body needs to utilize immediately, whether we choose to “fight” or “run like hell”. Our chances of surviving any stressor are contingent on the activation of this acute stress response. After the stressful event, our body is able to recalibrate stress hormone levels and allow us to return to our baseline. The stress response works extremely rapidly to activate our nervous system, immune system, cardiovascular system and metabolism. After the stressor, when we relax, our body is able to activate the relaxation response and take us off “high-alert ” status.

Health problems develop when we frequently activate our acute stress response and infrequently activate our relaxation response. When we constantly stay in stress-mode, the same hormone response that saves our lives actually starts causing damage to our health. In other words, we can’t live without the acute stress response, however, we can’t live very well when we over-activate the stress response.

Of course in today’s society we are exposed to unremitting stress levels. Unfortunately, this constant or frequent stress exposure persists in activating the stress response.  When under constant siege, all our body can do is pump out stress hormones and try to keep us in a high-alert state to help protect us.

The common culprits of chronic stress are psychological stressors such as work difficulties, financial worries, and family stressors. Physical stressors such as poor diets, sedentary lifestyles, sleep deprivation, or unhealthy habits such as smoking, drugs, or excessive alcohol consumption also contribute to chronic stress.

With constant stress, the resulting high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol cause damage to our health. Excessive cortisol is an age accelerator. High levels of cortisol harm us in multiple ways.

High cortisol levels from chronic stress contribute to the following:

-disrupts the balance of hormones that keep our bodies functioning optimally.

-disrupts our metabolism leading to muscle loss and increased body fat.

-diminishes our bone density.

-impairs our immune system making us more vulnerable to illness.

-dampens our memory and contributes to dementia.

-increases our risk of developing insulin resistance (another aging force).

-increases our risk of cancer by impairing the immune system and interfering with expression of tumor suppressor genes.

-increases our risk of cardiovascular disease.

-increases chronic inflammation (another aging force)

High cortisol levels from chronic stress makes us slow, heavy, weak, sick, and old!!

What can we do to reduce the destruction caused by chronic stress?

Fortunately, our anti-aging lifestyle will fortify us and greatly diminish the erosive damage of chronic stress. All the components of our anti-aging program will assist and augment how our bodies respond to the multiple stressors we inevitably face on a daily basis.

Stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and stretching, activate the relaxation response and turn down the stress signals in the body.

Spend some time daily on activities you enjoy such as hobbies, reading, walking, or other recreational activities to diminish stress.

Avoid high-sugar diets, low-protein diets and even low-fat diets, as they result in elevated glucose levels, high insulin levels and high cortisol levels. Deprivation diets, or frequently skipping meals, adds to the stress levels.

Our healthy anti-aging diet supplies the body and brain with necessary nutrients, improves blood sugar balance, and supports our metabolism to successfully lower our stress hormone levels.

Exercise is a great stress reducer, however excessive, prolonged exercise is a stressor that will raise your cortisol level, offsetting benefits. Best results are obtained with our recommended resistance training and interval training programs. High-intensity, short duration programs that maximize results in less time and less stress.

Hormone deficiencies and hormone imbalances are another stressor to the body. When we balance hormones with bio-identical hormone therapy, we reinforce our ability to resist the destructive impact of chronic stress. In addition, when our hormones are balanced we get enhanced results from our diet, exercise and supplement programs.

Sleep deprivation and sleep disorders are a common precipitants of chronic stress. Poor sleep raises stress hormone levels and lowers levels of rejuvenating growth hormone. It is easy to get into a downward spiral when poor sleep quality leads to excessive stimulant use and excessive carbohydrate consumption.

High-quality sleep is an excellent stress reducer. During sleep not only does your body de-stress but your body heals, repairs and restores. We find that when people participate in our anti-aging lifestyle they experience enhanced sleep quality.

In Summary:

1) Chronic stress accelerates aging.

2) Chronic stress makes us slow, heavy, weak, sick and old.

3) Tap into the body’s ability to “de-stress” every day by eliciting the relaxation response.

4) Stress reduction techniques control stress hormone levels and lower cortisol levels.

5) Cortisol control improves health.

5) Our anti-aging programs of healthy diet, nutritional supplements, smart exercise, stress reduction, and bio-identical hormone therapy, will make us resilient to the erosive aging force of chronic stress.

Author: frankcomstock

I am a physician with an anti-aging medical practice in Tucson called Lifestyle Spectrum. I am the author of ANTIAGING 101: Course Manual

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