How Stress Causes Aging
By Edsel Tan, L.Ac., Dipl.O.M.
We intuitively know that stress is harmful. Recently, however, science has proven this to be a hard fact.
An overdose of stress can harm
us down to our genetic makeup.
It seems to me there are many people, mostly men who are annoyed by the suffering and have lost their lust for living. But this man was different, you can tell by his eyes. He had patience and he took up my adviceóof asking him to learn and practice Crane Chi Gong in a regular class provided by the hospital. He practiced it as much as he could with his limited body but unlimited enthusiasm. With all his strength, he stood up in front of me from his wheel chair with assistance from his relatives. Enthusiastically, he proceeded quickly to try to lift his left arm. It jerked then moved upward as if an old compressed bed frame spring has been let loose. There were roars and cheers around the room, but I did not seem to notice. I was just staring at the pearls of tears streaming down his eyes.
I knew they were tears of joy.
The cells in our bodies are continually replicating to replace old or worn-out cells. Our
genetic material is stored within chromosomes in each cell, and when the cell replicates, these
chromosomes make copies of themselves. In the early 1980ís, scientists discovered telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, and telomerase the enzyme that rebuilds these caps as they wear down. If you were to envision a chromosome as a shoelace, the ends of the shoelace that keep it from fraying would be telomeres, also keeping the chromosome intact. These protective caps and the enzymes that restore them protect the genetic material within the chromosome from mutation during cell replication.
This is fundamental to optimum wellness and healthy aging.
Further study found that people under stress had shorter telomeres and less telomerase, implying
increased chance of genetic mutations, disease, and accelerated aging.
Stress clearly wreaks havoc on telomerase and therefore the body, but we donít have to surrender
to it. We can make changes for the better in our thought processes and in our lifestyle:
- Sleep: Give yourself time to restore.
- Eat Well: Stay nourished to cope with life head on.
- Talk Through It: When the stress is traumatizing, consider the guidance of a
licensed therapist or experienced counselor.
- Exercise: Get the blood pumping to detoxify your mind and body.
- Get Acupuncture: Numerous research studies indicate that acupuncture reduces stress through the release of endorphins and the decrease of neuropeptide Y (NPY), shown to be elevated in
those with chronic stress and thought to contribute to the physiological stress response.
- Meditate: This ancient practice stands the test of time. It allows you to align your breath, body and mind
to bring you into a peaceful state.
Prioritize Your Happiness!