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You are here: Biology of Aging >

Aging and Stress

Stress has a very close relationship to the development of age-related diseases and to the aging process itself. Stress or, more accurately, stress response is essentially a complex adaptive reaction of the body. Stress response is vital for survival, especially during emergencies, such as injury, infection or immediate danger. Stress response was especially important in the early days of mankind when life was tough, and danger, infections and struggle were a part of the daily routine.

Among other things, stress involves quick mobilization of energy reserves, increased supply of fuel and stimulation of the brain, muscles, heart and other organs essential for immediate survival. In essence, stress response is a biological overdrive mode which helps escape from a tight spot, but at a high cost of wearing down the body. We do need to have a good overdrive mode in our arsenal. If stress response in emergency is two weak, the organism either dies or suffers additional damage, which manifests itself in diseases and accelerated aging. However, if stress response is excessive or prolonged it becomes a damaging force itself, and also causes disease and accelerated aging. In particular, excessive or prolonged stress response increases levels of free radicals, accelerates breakdown of proteins in many organs (including the skin), suppress the immune system, promotes the burnout of neurons and so forth. In fact, directly or indirectly, stress augments most of the known mechanism of aging.

Numerous studies in animals have shown that an optimal stress response is one of the keys to longevity; both two little and two much promote aging and disease. With age, we gradually lose the capacity for optimal stress response, and our bodies become unable to adapt to adversities. Loss of stress resistance accelerates aging, which, in turn, further disrupts our capacity for optimal adaptation. This vicious circle is a major contributor to the acceleration of biological aging and the increased incidence of age-related diseases towards the end of life.

Therefore, stress management and optimization of stress response must be a part of any serious anti-aging strategy.

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