It is well known that chronic stress is associated with inflammation, depression, and an increased risk for disease. However, what most people don’t correlate stress to is the aging process. Stress may show up in obvious ways–such as physical or emotional stress that you can feel–or it can be subtly lurking in the background slowly building over time until you feel like you are going to implode. A small amount of good stress, or short-term stress, can be a good thing helping to boost your energy and ability to focus. However, it’s the long-term, chronic stress that wears the body down and leads to premature aging.


How Stress Promotes Aging

Stress doesn’t just make a person feel older, it can actually speed up the aging process and make you look older too! A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that chronic stress can decrease the lifespan of the immune system’s cells by 9-17 years! The study focused on telomeres–the caps on the end of chromosomes. When a cell divides, the telomeres of that cell shorten slightly. As the telomeres get shorter and shorter, the cell can no longer divide or replenish itself. This is one of the key components of the process of aging, and it’s one of the reasons why humans can’t live forever.

Chronic stress can also age our brains. Those who are constantly stressed have higher instances of dementia and memory loss. Stress is also associated with high blood pressure, increasing susceptibility to heart disease. Stress is a natural part of life at every age. Young and old alike have to face difficult situations and overcome obstacles. However, regardless of your age, you don’t have to let stress shorten your life!

Managing stress is all about mindfulness, and breathing through each situation. Instead of reacting to a stressful situation try to pause and breathe to ensure you are not beginning to respond without a thoughtful assessment of the situation. Remember that information you receive is just information. When we attach emotions to a situation, our body releases stress hormones and feels overwhelmed. Successful agers” have a few things in common: They stay connected to friends and family, stay active, eat a healthy diet, and, above all, find ways to reduce their stress load.


The Real Fountain of Youth: Stress Management

Follow these 5 simple steps to reduce your stress LIVE a LONGER LIFE! 

  1. Maintain a Positive Outlook: Those with more positive attitudes, deal with stress better and have a stronger passion for life.
  2. Connect with Friends and Family: Connecting with those we love is an excellent way to reduce stress. Social support can decrease stress hormones and increase longevity. Social interactions can also help older people stay mentally sharp.
  3. Move your Body: Exercise is a well-researched stress-buster for individuals of all ages, and even more important for older adults. Regular walks, bike rides, or water aerobics can do more than keep a person strong and independent. Exercise can actually help reduce the effects of aging on stress hormones like cortisol levels! 
  4. Decrease your Allostatic Load: In the end, anything that reduces unnecessary stress will make life more enjoyable. Spend more time moving your body, practice self-care–get a massage, take a bubble bath, and improve your sleep hygiene. Try deep breathing exercises, meditation, guided visualizations, or relaxation techniques that help you feel at peace.
  5. Ask for Help: If you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed, hire a coach or therapist to help you gain a new perspective– to help you live your life optimally!

If you want to live a longer, healthier, and better quality life, take a stand against chronic stress and practice ways to reduce your stress load today!  


Check out this video for even more information!


Your Online Dietitian Coach, Ashley Anderson MS, RDN, LDN, CPT, PN1 

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1. How Do Stress and Inflammation Contribute to Chronic Disease? | IFM. The Institute for Functional Medicine.
2. Epel ES, Blackburn EH, Lin J, et al. Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2004;101(49):17312-17315. doi:10.1073/pnas.0407162101
3. Sapolsky RM. Organismal stress and telomeric aging: An unexpected connection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2004;101(50):17323-17324. doi:10.1073/pnas. 0408041101
4. Traustadóttir T, Bosch PR, Matt KS. The HPA axis response to stress in women: effects of aging and fitness. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2005;30(4):392-402. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen. 2004.11.002