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Natural Awakenings Fairfield & Southern Litchfield Counties

Stress and Aging: Healthy Lifestyle Choices Make An Impact

Aug 31, 2022 10:00AM ● By Amy Wiesner
We all know stress feels bad both emotionally and physically, but knowing how it affects our bodies negatively may lead us to be more thoughtful about our health.

Watch the news and you can see the world we live in is inherently toxic and ages us faster than it did before industrialization. Pesticides, radiation and smog are elements that are ubiquitous today. They create free radicals in the body that hasten the aging process through oxidation as well as contribute to disease. Having a healthy lifestyle will help to combat those toxicities that we cannot avoid.

The most obvious way that stress affects us is emotionally—we tend to not be able to control our emotions as well as when we are calmer. Stress is also draining physically—it usually saps us of energy and can cause muscle tension and pain.

But what is actually going on inside our bodies when we react to emotional, mental or physical stress?

When our bodies are stressed, they go into panic mode, which causes a lot of physical responses (think of “fight or flight”). Our bodies have to immediately prepare to defend ourselves when our cortisol hormones go up due to stress, whether physical or emotional.

When this happens over long periods of time, our bodies may get used to living with the stress every day, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for us. The hormones produced cause inflammation which can in turn lead to various symptoms and eventual dysfunction. Continuous high levels of cortisol impact healthy function of the body, such as decreased neurotransmission, free radicals and inflammation, which are all associated with aging and disease.

One of the markers for aging in our bodies are telomeres—telomeres are little caps at the end of chromosomes that prevent loss or injury to genetic information during cell division. Stress affects telomeres which in turn makes our bodies less able to combat diseases like heart disease, memory loss and cancer.

Healthy lifestyle choices are the key to good health—and longer telomeres. However, when we are stressed, a lot of us tend not to be able to do healthy things for ourselves. It is important to do things that help you to cope with or alleviate your stress so that you can make the healthy choices.

Psychotherapy, massage and acupuncture are all helpful in different ways to calm your mind and body to allow you to make good decisions. Meditation has shown to decrease stress and disease as well as positively affect our telomeres. Even meditating and stopping your mind for five minutes a day can make a big difference.

Moderate intensity exercise has also shown that it helps to decrease stress and help you sleep better, which is also necessary to age healthfully. Getting at least eight hours of sleep, preferably between 10pm and 6am, is necessary for your body to heal and regenerate.

Eating more plant-based, non-processed foods also causes less stress on your body so that it can function better. High levels of sugar in our bodies cause oxidation and stress. Restricted time eating—eating only between 12 and 16 hours a day—has also shown to slow aging.

Herbs like ashwagandha can help to lower cortisol levels and be stress relieving, for example.
Aging gracefully and with less disease may take effort, but the people and tools are out there to help you, and it is indeed a worthwhile cause.

Dr. Amy Wiesner is a Naturopathic Physician and Licensed Acupuncturist at Healthful Harmony, LLC located at 91 East Ave, Norwalk. Connect at 203-962-5887 or HealthfulHarmony.com. See community resource guide listing, page 46.

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Healthful Harmony - 91 East Avenue Second Floor, Norwalk, CT

Dr. Wiesner, practicing for almost 20 years, uses acupuncture, lifestyle medicine, nutritional supplementation and homeopathy to help her patients achieve health and well-being. Infertili... Read More » 

 

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