Stress and aging: over the last few decades there have been huge leaps in our scientific knowledge.
The latest research is showing that we can measure longevity in ourselves. Through this research we can measure how different life choices and factors affect how quickly we get older internally.
So in looking at how the body gets older, does stress speed up the aging process and if so is there anything we can do to alter this process?
Stress and Aging
A new study in the scientific journal Plos One about job stress suggests that there is a link between stress and accelerated biological aging. The research is based on measuring a part of our DNA which are called telomeres.
What are Telomeres?
According to the
University of California San Francisco (UCSF):
protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that are similar to the
plastic caps at the ends of a shoelace. As the plastic ends shred,
and the shoelace becomes frayed and damaged, so too the shortening of
our telomeres can leave our cells vulnerable to damage.”
The Nobel Prize for Science winner, Dr Bill Andrews, has spent many years studying telomeres. His research shows that when we are born our telomeres are 10,000 bases (a micro-measurement) in length. Each year thereafter our telomeres shorten by 50 to 100 bases under normal circumstances.
When they reach the length of 5000 bases the chromosomes start to unravel and therefore the cells lose the ability to function. He goes on to say that around this point a person will die.
How Long Should We Live?
According to this research by Dr Andrews, we as humans have the ability to live to 125 years of age. But what this research is now showing is that lifestyle choices and other factors are shortening these telomeres.
The Things Which Speed Up Aging
The following factors have been suggested to shorten the length of telomeres and therefore speed up the aging process:
Stress and Aging Study
study in the journal Plos One carried out research to examine whether
psychological stress accelerated the rate of biological aging.
In this study
they investigated whether work-related exhaustion, an indicator of
prolonged work stress was linked to accelerated biological aging.
They took a
sample of 2911 men and women aged 30 to 64 and assessed them using
the Maslak Burnout Inventory – General Survey. The measurements
they took were based on the length of their leukocyte telomeres.
The Results of the Stress and Aging Study
The results suggested that work-related exhaustion is related to the acceleration of the rate of biological aging. So in answer to the question about stress and aging, this study suggests that high levels of stress are increasing the rate of aging.
The authors of this report go on to say that, “ the hypothesis awaits confirmation in a prospective study measuring changing in relative telomere length over time.” In other words they are waiting for more information and a more in depth study to be carried out.
Is There Anything You Can Do To Alter The Process of Stress and Aging
Peter R Carol
MD, the chair of the UCSF Department of Urology states that,
“telomere shortening increases the risk of a wide variety of
is therefore really important for us as individuals to take up a
practise of managing our stress levels. The less stressed you are,
and the better you manage your stress the
less your telomeres could shorten.
the positive thing coming out of these studies is that although
stress might be shortening our telomeres this new research is showing
that there are many things you can do to combat this.
this research is not only showing that you can slow the average
shortening of the telomeres down but that there are also many
techniques which work in lengthening the telomeres. According to the
research done by the UCSF
tools like, healthy eating, exercise, meditation and yoga
when combined in a regular practise have the potential to lengthen
Dr Carol goes on
to say, “we believe that increases in telomere length may help to
prevent these conditions (chronic diseases) and perhaps even lengthen
So in terms of stress and aging, stress has the potential to speed up the aging process. But we are now learning that there are potentially many things you can do on the positive side to prevent this which is wonderful news for us all.