How to Accelerate Aging

Monday March 17, 2014

Written by: Michelle Taylor, LMBT #6648

It may be surprising, but stress can be more of a factor in determining your physical age than the number of candles you blow out each year. Stress actually speeds up wear and tear on many areas of the body inducing many of the changes we refer to when we talk about “aging”.

Cortisol and other adrenal steroid hormones are released during the stress response, and if the exposure is repeated for long periods of time, these substances can damage the body. Chronically elevated cortisol reduces lean muscle mass, bone density and shifts fat distributions that can precede the onset of many age-related diseases like osteoporosis, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease and major depression. These hormones can block the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus region of the brain, preventing the storing of new memories. Some recent research suggests that chronic stress can lead indirectly to cell death as well.

Prolonged stress in young children can slow,  or even stop, both brain development and physical growth. Prolonged exposure to cortisol can cause long-term damage to the developing brain, and can negatively affect the immune system.  Children whose brains have been wired by prolonged stress may develop with learning difficulties, delays in brain development, a tendency to overreact and later difficulties coping with life’s demands.

The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger; however, stress can lead to physical symptoms when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges. 75-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints, including  headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, problems sleeping, depression and anxiety.

Unfortunately, when people use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs in an attempt to relieve their stress, these substances tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause more problems.

So what can you do?  Of course, eliminating the sources of your stress, while effective, may be impossible.  Practicing stress relievers, like breathing exercises and meditation, can calm you down and return your body to normal. Massage therapy is also a great stress reliever. It lowers the levels of the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. It releases endorphins which are the body’s natural pain killers, and oxytocin, the same hormone that is secreted when you receive a hug. It increases dopamine and serotonin which improve one’s mood. Few things feel as good as a soothing massage! Come in an experience one for yourself.

For more information and to make an appointment, please see front desk staff or speak with a massage therapist.