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How stress ages us

Last updated on June 18th, 2019

How often do you feel overwhelmed by the everyday tasks in your life?

When everything feels urgent or we perceive immense amounts of pressure in our daily lives, it communicates stress to our body. And for far too many people, this is becoming a daily occurrence.

There are, of course, moments of pressure and experiences that require a quick and urgent response. However, for many people, the lines between what is actually urgent and what we perceive as urgent have become blurred and so everyday life has become overwhelming.

Let’s explore this briefly.

Say you knock a candle over and starts to catch your rug alight. Aside from leaving a disappointing mark in your beautiful rug, this is actually a situation that presents real danger and needs to be dealt with urgently. Anything that isn’t actually life-endangering, that we feel requires the same amount of urgency, comes down to our perception. A good example of this is Christmas. It’s meant to be a time of relaxation and celebration but for far too many people it’s become a stressful time filled with pressure and urgency.

When we live our lives from this place, it drives biochemical changes in the body. With excessive production of our long-term stress hormone cortisol, body fat tends to be stored around the tummy and we can experience a loss of muscle mass, which ultimately affects our metabolic rate, not to mention our strength. Maintaining muscle mass is really important if we want to remain mobile and active into our later years.

Stress hormones communicate to your body that your life is in danger, so your body’s primary focus will be on the processes that are essential to your survival. This means that other non-essential processes such as the ‘beauty bits’ – keeping your skin, hair and nails in top shape – generally sink to the bottom of the priority list and the appearance of these parts can begin to show the signs of not getting the nourishment they need.

In addition to this, when we are stressed we tend to breathe more shallowly and quickly. This leads us to turn over more oxygen, which, as discussed in the article How Do We Age?, can contribute to oxidative damage.

Oxidative damage to our DNA, body proteins and fats is driven by free radicals, single fragmented oxygen units (we’re talking of the molecular level here) who aren’t happy because oxygen likes to be stuck together with another unit of oxygen. Free radicals are produced when we breathe and a small number of them help the body with some vital processes, such as helping us get over an infection. However, when they are in excessive numbers, degeneration (ageing) occurs.

In order to counteract the impact of this, we need to consume more antioxidant-rich foods (predominantly colourful plant foods) as these foods can donate an oxygen unit back to the single grumpy guy. Paired back up with his buddy, he is as happy as a duck and will no longer damage your tissues.

Recently, an article was published that caught my eye. The title read: “Organic meat production just as bad for climate, study finds”. The analysis


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