How Stress Affects the Aging Process

Chronic Stress

Anyone with chronic stress knows how it can leave you feeling completely wiped out at the end of the day. It turns out it does so much more than that! In truth, chronic stress—along with anxiety and depression—actually speeds up the aging process, and negatively affects your physical well-being.

Recent research proves that phobic anxiety and depression have the capability of accelerating aging down to the molecular level. Major depressive disorder, or MDD, affects aging at the cellular level by changing the chromosomal level telomeres. Chromosomal level telomeres are the little tops at the end of chromosomes, and as you age they get smaller because of the cell division that happens as you get older. People with depression have smaller telomeres than those without depression, essentially speeding up the aging process.

Depression also has the ability to cause bodily inflammation and disrupt the body’s immune and stress responses which can lead to illnesses and premature aging. However, once your depression is treated, it is actually possible to reverse the effects it has had on your body.

Your heart health is also at risk when dealing with depression. Intermountain Healthcare has conducted recent studies finding that those suffering from severe to mild depression can reduce their risk of heart disease by taking antidepressants rather than taking a regular cholesterol-reducing drug. So, by treating their depression, people can ensure the improvement of their heart health as well.

 

The chronic stress and resulting inflammation has the danger of influencing the brain and contributing to Alzheimer’s Disease. According to some scientists, the greater stress that women experience could factor into why women’s brains age faster than men’s. On top of that, the increased production of adrenaline can lead to short-term hearing and/or vision loss.

Depression and anxiety not only affect people’s health, but also their day-to-day habits. Those who struggle with either disorder tend to exercise less, self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, sleep less, and eat poorly. All of the behaviors stimulate the aging process.

Anybody who may believe that their chronic stress could possibly be depression or anxiety should make an appointment with a qualified psychiatrist to see if there might be physical or chemical imbalance in the brain. Taking care of your body starts with taking care of your brain!

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at 770-817-9200.

Author
Angelo Sambunaris, M.D.

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