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How Does Stress Affect Aging?

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When seniors are stressed, they may feel irritable, short of breath, or tired. The impact of stress extends beyond these immediate symptoms, affecting the mind, body, and overall health on a molecular level. Read on to learn more about how stress affects aging.

The Stress Response

While the occasional stressful day probably isn’t cause for concern, chronic stress can impact physical and mental health. Anxiety triggers the body’s stress response, and stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are produced in large quantities. As these hormones course through the body, heart and breathing rates increase, which can put excess strain on aging bodies. While the stress response is beneficial in specific situations, the body isn’t designed to be in a perpetual state of anxiety, and it can lead to heart disease, weakened immune health, and more.

Stress and Cognitive Health

Stress doesn’t just impact physical health. The stress response also affects the brain. Cortisol and adrenaline aren’t confined to the heart and lungs. They also course through the brain, where they halt the production of short-term memories and reduce concentration. While these short-term effects are usually mitigated by a good night’s sleep, they can cause long-term damage if the mind is in a chronic state of stress. Elevated stress may even increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s can quickly take a toll on a senior’s health and wellbeing. The days, weeks, and months following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be challenging for both seniors and their families. However, these challenges can be made less stressful with the help of caregivers trained in professional Alzheimer’s home care. North Broward Home Care Assistance is here to help your loved one enjoy the golden years while simultaneously managing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Hearing and Vision Health

When the body produces adrenaline, the blood vessels respond by constricting. The impact of this is mild at first, but over time, excessive adrenaline production can permanently constrict the blood vessels connected to the eyes and ears, which can have a negative impact on the health of these sensory systems, speeding up the vision and hearing loss associated with old age.

Cellular Aging

The physical aging process occurs on a cellular level. As humans get older, the body’s protein molecules lose the ability to repair DNA strands, which precipitates cellular damage and death. Research suggests long-term stress can shorten the length of telomeres, the caps that protect the ends of chromosomes. When telomeres shorten, they can no longer perform key functions, leaving the chromosomes they protect unable to divide or repair themselves. The processes that promote cellular restoration come to a halt, and the cellular aging process speeds up. Short telomere lengths have been linked to elevated stress levels experienced during childhood and adulthood. To delay the cellular aging process, seniors should try to lower their stress levels.

Seniors aren’t the only ones with high stress levels. Sometimes family caregivers are overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for a loved one. If you’re the primary family caregiver for an elderly loved one and need additional assistance providing high-quality home care, North Broward Home Care Assistance can help. We are a leading home care agency committed to changing the way seniors age.

Stress and Lifestyle Choices

When aging adults are constantly anxious, they’re less likely to make healthy lifestyle choices that could mitigate their stress. Research suggests stress leads people to skip their exercise regimen, eat unhealthy foods, and sleep poorly. These habits further accelerate the aging process.

Stress Relief

To treat chronic anxiety, seniors should make healthy lifestyle choices and find an effective stress relief outlet. Sleeping eight hours a night, eating well, and exercising can stabilize the body’s stress response. Stress relief methods like breathing exercises, meditation, and therapy can give seniors the tools they need to navigate stressful situations.

In addition to alleviating stress, professional caregivers offer many potential benefits to seniors, such as a higher quality of life, better physical performance, optimal brain function, and even increased longevity. Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same home care services. North Broward families can rely on Home Care Assistance to provide individualized care plans to meet your elderly loved one’s unique care needs. Our holistic Balanced Care Method was designed to help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and our Cognitive Therapeutics Method offers mentally stimulating activities that can stave off cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia. To get answers to your questions about effective in-home care for seniors, schedule a call with one of our Care Managers at 954-906-5161 today.