A study published in Cell Metabolism found that biological age increases with stress, but returns to baseline once one has recovered from the stress. According to experts, exposure to stress can cause inflammation and damage the DNA of cells, which can accelerate aging. A lower biological age is linked to a lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, immune dysfunctions, metabolic disorders and other age-related conditions. A healthy diet, regular physical activity, stress management and good sleep can slow biological age.
Each year, the number of candles on your birthday cake indicates your age. But how old are you really? Your chronological age is the number of years you have lived. It’s easy. Biological age, on the other hand, is used to determine the age at which your body behaves and feels. It is often used as an indication of general health and can be influenced by lifestyle factors.
A new study published in the journal Cell Metabolism has shown that the biological age of humans increases rapidly in response to various forms of stress. However, the study also showed that this aging can be reversed after a stress recovery period.
How does stress age the body?
When it comes to stress and accelerated aging, what is really happening on a physical level? How does stress age our bodies? Chronic stress triggers a “cascade of biological responses in the body. First, it triggers the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can cause inflammation and damage DNA and cells if produced excessively for a prolonged period.
Second, long-term stress can lead to oxidative stress. It is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the body’s ability to repair the damage caused by these ROS. Oxidative stress can damage cells, proteins, and DNA, leading to premature aging. Stress then affects the telomeres, these protective caps located at the end of the chromosomes, which shorten with each cell division and are considered a marker of biological aging. Chronic stress has been linked to telomere shortening, which can contribute to premature aging. Once the stress is eliminated, the body can begin to recover and the physiological processes that have been damaged can return to their normal level of functioning.
Restoring these processes to normal levels can help reduce the load on cells and slow the aging process. Also, the body has mechanisms to repair damaged cells and tissues, and these mechanisms can become more active when stress is reduced. For example, cells can begin to produce more antioxidants and activate DNA repair mechanisms, which can help reduce damage caused by oxidative stress.
How to slow down your biological age
The advantages of a lower biological age are numerous. It is linked to a lower risk of:
Develop cardiovascular diseases.
and other age-related conditions.
Since your biological age is a key indicator of your health and longevity, you might be wondering how to measure yours. Officially, you’ll need a biological age test that measures biomarkers like DNA methylation and telomere length, as well as blood and urine samples. However, your daily habits can also help you gauge your biological health. If you have a healthy weight, sleep well, manage stress effectively, and don’t lead a sedentary lifestyle, it’s safe to assume that your biological age is a few years younger than your chronological age.
You may be wondering if it is possible to slow down or even reverse your biological age. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that a healthy lifestyle is essential.
Eating healthily, limiting alcohol intake and not smoking are all excellent ways to improve overall health and, therefore, reduce biological age. You also need to exercise regularly, as it is a great way to reduce stress. Since stress seems to have such a profound effect on biological age, you’ll need to find effective ways to manage it. To help the body cope with stressors, rest and sleep are essential, because when we sleep we are also fasting. This triggers the body’s built-in cellular waste disposal system, which slows down the rate at which we age.
In addition to these tips, taking the time to practice the activities you enjoy is a great way to keep your body young. Singing, dancing, walking, all activities that create joy and excitement (are a good idea). Singing also has the benefit of activating the vagus nerve, which is connected to all major organs and tells them to rest, relax, and repair.
Stress is not always bad for your health
The results of this latest study do not give a complete picture of the situation. He notes that some forms of stress can actually be beneficial, such as the kind of stress one experiences in a hot sauna or ice bath or during strenuous exercise, for example. Organisms that are not resistant to stress can of course succumb to it. However, the key to health lies in how organisms deal with stress. In other words, how quickly they recover and get back on top. One of the reasons biological age is restored after healing is that we adapt and learn to cope with stress. Athletes are familiar with this phenomenon. Top runners and gymnasts push their stress tolerance to higher and higher levels, guided by their coaches, and the result is improved muscle function and strength. While this type of stress can lead to physical improvements, it is cumulative stress, a kind of chronic emotional stress, that can do the real damage. A study published in Translational Psychiatry in 2021 showed that increased cumulative stress was associated with accelerated aging, and that emotional regulation reduced this phenomenon.