How Stress Can Increase Your Biological Age and Ways to Reverse It
Stress is an inherent part of life, but its impact on both mental and physical health is profound. A recent study published in Cell Metabolism reveals that stress can influence our biological age, potentially accelerating the aging process. However, the good news is that the study suggests that when stressors are resolved, the biological age can revert to its baseline. Biological age appears to be dynamic. Understanding how stress affects our bodies and adopting strategies to mitigate its impact can contribute to healthier aging.
The Study and Biological Age Measurements
Researchers in the study utilized DNA methylation clocks to assess changes in biological age in response to stress. Methylation is a chemical reaction in the body where a molecule is added to DNA, proteins, or other molecules. Changes in methylation can impact a person’s susceptibility to certain diseases.
In an experiment involving mice, scientists performed heterochronic parabiosis, a surgical procedure attaching pairs of mice of different ages. This stressful situation resulted in a rapid increase in the biological age of the younger mice. However, once separated, their biological age returned to baseline.
Applying this insight to humans, the researchers examined periods of trauma, such as emergency surgery, postpartum recovery, and recovery from COVID-19. After these stressors, the increase in biological age was reversible, indicating that biological age is dynamic and responsive to both stress and resolution.
Impact of Stress on Biological Age
Disease, Drug Treatment, Lifestyle, and Environment:
The study highlights that biological age can change based on factors such as emotional distress, disease, drug treatments, lifestyle changes, and environmental exposures.
Chronic Stress and Mortality:
Chronic stress, where the body remains on high alert even after the stressor has passed, can increase mortality by accelerating biological age. The study challenges the traditional notion that age moves at one rate and in only one direction.
Fight or Flight Response:
When faced with stressors, the body activates the fight or flight response, releasing hormones that prepare it to face or flee from the threat. This response is designed for short-term survival but can have negative consequences if prolonged.
Stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that enhances alertness. Prolonged high cortisol levels can lead to increased appetite, fat buildup, high blood pressure, immune suppression, insomnia, anxiety, muscle tension, headaches, and more.
Reducing the Effects of Stress
Paying attention to mindset is crucial to reducing stress and positively impacting the body. Active restoration, both physically and mentally, can reverse the aging process.
The CDC recommends just 10 minutes of daily activity to help reduce stress. Exercise, deep breathing, meditation, and yoga are effective stress-reducing activities.
Gratefulness and Social Connections:
Practicing gratitude and fostering social connections contribute to emotional well-being. Positive experiences and relationships can counteract the effects of stress.
Yoga and the Vagus Nerve:
Yoga, with its intentional breath techniques, influences the vagus nerve, shifting the body from a fight or flight response to a rest and digest state. This can significantly reduce stress.
Ayurvedic Rasayana Therapy:
At the heart of Ayurveda’s rejuvenative therapies lies the concept of Rasayana – a comprehensive approach aimed at reversing biological age, promoting longevity, and fostering the holistic well-being of an individual. Rasayana aims to enhance both the quantity and quality of life. It seeks to strengthen the body’s immune system, delay the aging process, and promote mental clarity and spiritual well-being.
Conclusion: Age as a Fluid Parameter
The study’s findings challenge the conventional belief that age is a linear progression. Biological age is fluid, fluctuating, and malleable, responding to the experiences and stressors encountered throughout life. By actively managing stress through mindful practices, physical activity, holistic treatments, and fostering positive connections, individuals can potentially reverse the impact of stress on their biological age. Embracing a holistic approach to well-being not only enhances longevity but also contributes to a more vibrant and healthier life.