We've all heard the jokes about stress turning our hair grey, and everyone understands that stress feels uncomfortable and can cause short term health and psychological issues. However, there was never any conclusive proof that chronic stress could actually shorten your life span by accelerating the aging process until recently.
chronic stress damages DNA
New research indicates that chronic stress like the kind we experience in high stress occupations actually erodes and damages critical parts of our DNA over time. This damage and erosion can increase our odds of living a shorter life span.
The study showed that those under chronic stress exhibited shortened telomeres. Telomeres are the protective edges that bind the ends of DNA strands together. The damage of these telomeres leads to errors in how the DNA instructs cells to behave, so their length is directly tied to our longevity.
The shortening and damage of these mechanisms leads to a heightened potential for mutations in otherwise healthy cells and genes. When our genetic code and transmission is broken, it means our bodies have a higher likelihood of cancer and other life shortening diseases and generally poor health.
The evidence shows that stress can actually shorten your life span by as much as four to eight years depending on how you handle it and your genetic predispositions and general health. Exercise and a healthy diet can help offset some of the damage done by stress, but chronic and heavy stress is a hard thing to completely overcome by lifestyle alone.
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