One out of 75 Americans have experienced some sort of panic disorder, and according to a global survey conducted by Nielsen, over 50 per cent of women living in the United States are stressed out. On the surface stress might not sound startling; however, scientific evidence shows women with anxiety age faster.
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have linked stress with aging. They say their studies demonstrate that a common type of stress called “phobic anxiety”, associated with shorter telomeres could speed up the aging process in middle-aged women.
The Effect of Anxiety on Brain Function
Telomeres are DNA protein at the end of chromosomes. During cell division they protect genetic information. Telomeres are indicators of cellular aging. Previous research has linked shortened telomeres to diseases such as cancer, dementia, and heart disease.
The research team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital took blood samples of over 5 thousand women between the ages of 42 and 69 to conduct their analysis. They measured the telomere lengths and asked the ladies questions about phobic symptoms. Having a high level of “phobic anxiety” seemed to coincide with shorter telomeres. To put it in perspective, the researchers estimate that it means an additional 6 years added onto a woman’s life.
The findings support previous research indicating that stress can impair DNA and lead to higher levels of damage in the blood.
Anxiety and the Body
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, brain function plays a major role in our general well-being. When you experience stress your hormones and nerve chemicals release, your muscles tense, you breathe faster, and your brain uses more oxygen. This can boost your immune system over the short term; however over the long-term your immunity is lowered and your nervous system, digestive system, excretory system all stop working properly. This is when we get ill. Many people in the scientific community believe there is a link between illness and aging.
Anxiety and Sleep
Chronic stress and anxiety often leads to difficulty sleeping. Studies show that more women suffer from insomnia than men do. Researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center state that sleep loss impacts metabolic function, and can alter hormones thus stimulating the effects of aging. Aside from the aging factor, studies show that sound sleep is required to ensure proper brain function. Women with insomnia often complain about difficulty concentrating, as well as constant memory loss.
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There are many ways you can beat the stress. For example, exercise and relaxation techniques are often used to lower the impact of stress on the human body. Chemicals are released in the brain during physical activity that can help you feel better. As for relaxation techniques, they distract you from the issues that are causing you anxiety. If stress is taking over your life don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for suggestions as well. Millions of women are right there with you, fighting off the anxiety.