iD magazine - - Body & Mind -

The psy­che is one of the most un­der­es­ti­mated fac­tors that in­flu­ence re­gen­er­a­tion. For a long time the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion did not rec­og­nize that our feel­ings play a very sig­nif­i­cant role in the phys­i­cal re­gen­er­a­tion and ag­ing pro­cesses. But that is pre­cisely the case. Still, what makes stress so dan­ger­ous? An­swer: Al­losta­sis, a phe­nom­e­non that neu­ro­science re­searcher Bruce Mcewen was the first to ob­serve, is com­pen­sa­tion for phys­i­cal wear and tear. It’s pri­mar­ily the stress hor­mone cor­ti­sol that in­creases our al­lo­static load. The con­se­quence: sig­nif­i­cantly ac­cel­er­ated ag­ing of skin, mus­cles, and bone tis­sue. By im­pli­ca­tion this means re­duc­ing stress is one of the most ef­fec­tive anti-ag­ing strate­gies known to us. But how can an af­fected in­di­vid­ual break out of the stress trap?

The prob­lem is, many peo­ple don’t take the idea of stress as a med­i­cal prob­lem se­ri­ously. “Even moder­ate stress can be ab­so­lutely deadly in the long term,” says Carolyn Ald­win, di­rec­tor of Ore­gon State Uni­ver­sity’s Cen­ter for Healthy Ag­ing Re­search. In ad­di­tion to the es­tab­lish­ment and main­te­nance of so­cial con­nec­tions (which are proven to re­lieve stress and lengthen life by sev­eral years), re­lax­ation ex­er­cises are an ef­fec­tive way to avoid the stress trap: yoga, tai chi, med­i­ta­tion, etc. The rea­son: Telom­eres—struc­tures at the end of chro­mo­somes that de­ter­mine a cell’s age—de­crease in length more slowly and thus slow the ag­ing pro­cess.

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