Two issues back I wrote about the root cause of most illness and disease being the effects of chronic stress and the dysfunction of the gastrointestinal tract. Last issue focused on the effects of an excess of cortisol, which is a hormone produced in response to stress. Continuing in that vein the latest research to be reported is the scientific finding of how stress decreases our lifespan. In this study scientists determined that chronic stress, and the perception of life stress had a significant impact on three biological factors; the length of telomeres, the activity of telomerase, and levels of oxidative stress in immune system cells in healthy premenopausal women.
Telomeres cap the ends of chromosomes in our DNA and promote genetic stability. Each time a cell divides, a portion of telomeric DNA dwindles away, and after many rounds of cell division, so much telomeric DNA has diminished that the aged cell stops dividing. Thus, telomeres play a critical role in determining the number of times a cell divides, its health, and its life span. These factors, in turn, affect the health of the tissues that cells form. Telomerase is an enzyme that replenishes a portion of telomeres with each round of cell division, and protects telomeres. Oxidative stress, which causes DNA damage, has been shown to hasten the shortening of telomeres in cell culture. The telomeres of subjects with the highest perceived psychological stress had undergone the equivalent of approximately 10 years of additional aging, compared with those who had the lowest perception of being stressed. The highest-stress group also had significantly decreased telomerase activity and higher oxidative stress than the lowest-stress group.
This is a landmark study in that it clearly demonstrates scientifically what has always been perceived; stress can affect your health and shorten your life. Even positive events such as marriage, the birth of a child, or the purchase of a new home can cause stress. Some stress is good and even necessary to maintain good health. Unfortunately as a society we have way too much stress from various sources and it is literally burning out our DNA and shortening our lifespan. We have very important choices to make. We can continue to eat too much, sleep too little, get no exercise and continually “burn the candle at both ends”. Or we can make a decision to sit down with someone and discuss methods that will help to modify stressful habits. More importantly we can learn to manage stress that is unavoidable. Give your body and brain a chance to experience vibrant health. It can be done with a firm commitment to some simple changes.
My office offers lab tests that can determine your levels of stress hormones, your degree of oxidative stress and damage, and even a profile to determine your genetic predisposition to oxidative stress. These tests are simple and relatively inexpensive. In addition to a consult and exam, they provide a clear window into your function. Effective treatment is dependant upon the proper diagnosis.
© Reuven M. Rosenberg, D.C.
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