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To Your Health

Another Result of Stress

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11/01/2010 - Howdy! I've touched in previous articles on how stress affects our bodies. Stress will suppress the immune system. It will affect the endocrine system, resulting in all kinds of "fun stuff" involving our organs. However, today we'll go deep into the cell layer, in fact, we'll go to our DNA.

Some background: In 1953 Leonard Hayflick, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, discovered that human cells divide about 50 times, and then die. Thirty years later scientists discovered the reason for this phenomenon (called the "Hayflick limit") was telomeres. Telomeres are short caps of DNA on the ends of chromosomes. Each time your cell divides, the telomere shortens a little. When most of the telomeres disappear, the cell dies. The telomere length has been proposed as a marker of biological aging. In an article from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the [Jnited Stares of America, called "Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress", the authors provide evidence that psychological stress -- both perceived stress and chronicity of stress -- is significantly associated with higher oxidative stress (not good) and lower telomerase activity. Telomerase is an enzyme that adds to the length of the telomere (good). The shorter telomere length is a factor of cell aging and, as result, longevity.

Women with the highest level of perceived stress have telomeres shorter on average by the equivalent of at least one decade (wow!) of additional aging compared to low stress women. The authors noted, "People who are stressed over long periods tend to look haggard, and it is commonly thought psychological stress leads to premature aging and the earlier onset of diseases of aging". (I can get a whole new article on just that quote).

Telomere length declines during normal aging. The authors found the telomere shortening in the high-stress group was equivalent of 9-17 additional aging years compared with the lower-stress group (wow!). Stress will increase the activity of the sympathetic nervous system -- fight or flight response. This increased tone for sustained periods of time is bad for our health. It results in increased oxidative stress -- remember my article on free-radicals. These damage the body. In this case, it decreases the telomerase, which increases the telomere length and thus prevents premature aging of the cell and, in a general sense, our body. Are you getting this? This is why we recommend a proper diet that has anti-oxidants (your veggies).

Patients with early myocardial infarction had telomere lengths that were equivalent to those typical of a person approximately 11 years older than controls. Interesting note: My father died at 46 years of age from a heart attack. In fact, he had three heart attacks within 36 hours. I remember that during the time period prior, he was under a prolonged period of stress (probably months from what I recall).

Well, I gotta go, but next month I will follow up this article with some helpful ideas to slow your aging down (besides all those beauty products). See ya!!

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