Stress is more than a feeling – it can put your health at great risk. Too much stress, too often, boosts blood pressure, creates mental fogginess, zaps your libido, and weakens your immune system.
In a state of chronic stress, a person’s ability to overcome even basic challenges becomes even more compromised every day. Part of this is simply due to the “fuse-shortening” effect of stress: the more stress you deal with, the more your adrenal glands react, the more cortisol that surges through your system, and more difficult you find it to recharge and refresh enough to keep perspective. In this state, we lose refreshing sleep, diminish our chances for career advancement through unfounded anxieties, put our heart, arteries and brain at risk of permanent damage, and simply miss out on the beauty and joy of being alive. Some people would say that life is too short to be stressed out too often. It may be more correct to say that too much stress may, in fact, shorten our lives.
This research showed that the immune system is even more affected by stress in older individuals. That’s why it is so imperative that we control reactions to stress throughout our lifetimes. Of course, knowing that your immune system can be compromised by stress isn’t the same as proactively trying to reduce stress levels.
Sensible diet and exercise are two very basic and smart ways to reduce stress. Getting out for a walk, (when and if possible), and reducing the intake of inflammation-causing foods (unfortunately, some of the very foods we tend to gravitate towards under stress), can do a lot to help balance the cycle of ups and downs that lead to stressful states of mind.
There are botanicals that can help as well: chamomile, ashwagandha, red ginseng, and specific extracts of Echinacea angustifolia.
Fali T, Vallet H, Sauce D. Impact of stress on aged immune system compartments: Overview from fundamental to clinical data. Exp Gerontol. 2018;105:19–26.
Life expectancy is continuously increasing due to major progress in preventing, delaying or curing various pathologies normally encountered in old age. However, both scientific and medical advances are still required to understand underlying cause of the disparate comorbidities occurrence with aging. In one hand, aging profoundly impairs the immune system; it is characterized by many changes in haematopoiesis, adaptive and innate systems, associated with pro-inflammatory environment. In another hand, stressful events (acute or chronic) can also impact the immune system through the secretion of hormones, which are also altered with aging. The field of psychoneuroimmunology is now providing evidences that in acute medical conditions, elderly people are not equal in their responses to stressors depending on many extrinsic and intrinsic factors. These parameters could interfere with elderly's ability to mount an effective immune response. The objective of this review is to provide an overview of the literature (from fundamental to clinical observations) to draw a parallel between immune dysregulation caused by stress or by aging. Understanding this entanglement could enable us to target fundamental age-related pathways and thus open new avenues in improving both lifespan and health span.
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