Positive Outlook Buffers Damaging Effects of Stress
April 06, 2005
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It looks as though stress is taking over America’s health,
as up to 90 percent of the doctor visits in the United States may
be caused by a stress-related illness.
Severe Stress Attacks on a Cellular Level
When stress strikes, your body’s adrenal glands produce hormones,
such as adrenaline, which increase blood pressure; chronic stress
keeps these hormones at dangerously high levels. However, studies
suggest that severe cases of stress extend beyond the temporary
increase in blood pressure and begin to injure cells of the body--which
may accelerate the aging process, leaving people susceptible to
To determine exactly how stress affects people on a cellular level,
researchers analyzed the cells of mothers caring for critically
sick children. The goal was to discover if stress affected a key
part of the chromosome known as a telomere, thought to be markers
of aging. Telomere’s cap the ends of chromosomes, which contain
the body’s DNA. As people begin to age, this cap begins to
dwindle down. Disease steps in when the telomere gets too short
to work effectively and cells all over the body begin to die.
An interesting finding of the study: The longer women cared for
sick children, the shorter the telomere became.
Another study consisted of caregivers of Alzheimer's patients,
who dedicated at least 100 hours a week to caring for a loved one
with this degenerative disease. Researchers found that a damaging
substance in the blood called interleukin 6 increased dramatically
among caregivers. Based on the findings the following startling
analogy was made: The average caregiver was about 70 but had Il-6
levels that looked like those of a 90-year-old.
Techniques for Conquering Stress include:
- Regular exercise
- Prayer or meditation
- Asking for help when demands are overwhelming
- Developing a support network of friends or family members
- Regarding unavoidable stress as an opportunity for growth
Today March 22, 2005