My friend works in a high-stress environment and has to deal with dozens of people of all ages and backgrounds on a daily basis. She is surprised how much older her clients look than their chronological age. There are several possible reasons for this but stress is the number ONE factor responsible for premature aging.
The particular population my friend works with has all kinds of problems, some of which could have been avoided, and some of which are due to bad choices they’ve made. Some of their problems are due to no fault of their own. But the bottom line is they are under considerable stress and stress takes a toll on all aspects of your life including sleep, immunity, and mental health and happiness.
Here are the 5 most important things you can do to relieve stress and prevent premature aging.
1. Meditate. Transcendental Meditation, in particular, calms the mind, reduces oxygen consumption, and allows the body to deeply relax, so that you’re able to face the challenges of the day with a clear mind and more flexibility. Instead of cursing the driver who cuts you off, a regular mediation practice can help you deal with everyday challenges without getting stressed out. Mediators often comment that stress rolls off them like water off a duck’s back.
2. Exercise as a stress reliever has been highly documented in scientific studies. It gets your heart pumping, supports healthy muscles, bones, and flexibility, helps release stress and tension in the body, and makes you feel good because it releases endorphins. Exercise also supports overall health and immunity.
3. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetable. Premature aging results from not getting the recommended daily intake of antioxidants. And I don’t mean in the form of nutritional supplements. If you regularly do not eat the 5-7 recommended servings of fruits and vegetables you will notice the effects, some of which are visible on your face. Brown spots, lines and wrinkles appear prematurely when our cells are being damaged by free radicals produced by the sun, polluted air, chemical laden water, fruits and vegetables, and cigarette smoke. Even worse, free radicals are the culprits in most modern-day diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, many cancers, heart disease and some eye conditions, such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
The good news is there is something you can do to slow down the aging process. Eat your fruits and vegetables because they are a rich source of the antioxidants you need to protect your cells from free radical damage. Go for color and variety.
4. Do not smoke—Not only does cigarette smoking take its toll on your lungs, but also it shows up as lines and wrinkles on your face. Those premature wrinkles show up other places, as well, like on your inner arms. The nicotine in cigarettes causes the narrowing of the blood vessels in the outermost layers of your skin. Blood flow is restricted, which means your skin doesn’t get the oxygen and other nutrients it needs to stay supple and healthy. There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke that hinder collagen and elastin production. These are the fibers that make your skin smooth and supple. Additionally, smokers usually purse their lips when inhaling and squint their eyes to avoid smoke getting in their eyes. Both of these habits contribute to premature wrinkling, and all of the above contribute to sagging skin. The remedy? Don’t smoke!
5. Sleep tight. There is no substitute for a good nights’ sleep. Most of us require 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night to perform our best. Adequate sleep repairs your body, sharpens your mind and stabilizes emotions. Lack of sleep triggers the body to increase production of cortisol, which makes it harder to fall asleep and stay in a deep sleep because on some level your body and brain think they need to stay alert for danger. Added to that, increased cortiosol production leads to weight gain.
The adrenals increase gluconeogenesis, which provides the body with glucose from protein, rather than carbohydrates. This decreases serotonin and melatonin, which results in poor sleep and leads to food cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods in order to uplift mood, which releases more serotonin and insulin. This leads to more stress and insulin production to regulate glucose, which may lead to fat storage, weight gain and insulin resistance. It becomes a vicious cycle. (Raäikkonen, 2007)
Insufficient sleep is also associated with lower levels of leptin, a hormone that alerts the brain that it has enough food, as well as higher levels of ghrelin, a biochemical that stimulates appetite. Consequently, poor sleep may result in food cravings. (Healthy Sleep, http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk)
So if you want to slow down your aging, and look younger than you are, include the following in your daily health regimen:
4) Regular, restful sleep
5) And Don’t Smoke!
If you’d like to read more articles like this one, please subscribe to theheatlhycaregiverblog.com