Have you ever noticed how much older presidents look after their presidential term? This is a clear example of how stress affects our aging appearance. It is largely our environment and levels of stress, not our genes, that cause premature aging.
Within minutes of a stressful event, our body releases stress hormones to prepare us for a “fight or flight” response, including slower digestion and heightened energy production. Short term, these physiological changes are ideal. However, long term stress inhibits cell growth by increasing oxidative stress.
Oxidation works in your body the same way it affects a piece of forgotten fruit, causing it to dry up and toughen. The same process is at work on your skin when exposed to long term stress. In simple terms, oxidation allows free radicals to invade our cells, which shortens their life spans. The faster our cells die, the faster we physically age.
To prevent and help reverse the affects of stress and aging, good nutrition, exercise, and meditation are key.
Eat a diet of organic whole foods, rich in antioxidants. Organic foods contain higher percentages of vitamins and minerals to help protect our cells. In particular, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables which are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are the body's defense mechanism against aging. They limit oxidative damage by eliminating free radicals. And if the 10-20% of your genes happen to contribute to premature aging, antioxidants have the ability to affect your gene behavior.
Exercise regularly. Regular physical exercise enhances the antioxidant defense system. Weekend warrior types will not benefit in this manner, as it may cause more oxidative stress.
Slow down and take deep breaths. Put cell phones and electronic communication devices away for 30 minutes a day. Electro-magnetic fields activate our brain and adds to the stress cycle. Meditation, which involves slowing down and deepening the breath, also helps to break the stress cycle. It signals the brain that it is safe to relax, thus turning off the production of stress hormones.
While we naturally age to a certain extent, ongoing stress will speed up this process. By making healthy lifestyle choices, you will help to reduce stress and strengthen the stress fighting systems in your body, leading to a more youthful you!