High levels of anxiety and stress can shorten lifespan by up to six years

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 by: John Phillip
Tags: anxiety, lifespan, longevity

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(NaturalNews) Scientists have placed increasing emphasis on the science of telomeres over the past decade, as they continue to uncover how these zipper-like structures that bind our genetic destiny can prematurely shorten in response to environmental and lifestyle factors. Prior studies have found that our telomeres are influenced or expressed by diet, exposure to chemicals and pollutants as well as how we react to a variety of short and long term stressors and anxiety in our lives.

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and the Harvard Medical School in Boston have revealed the result of their research into the negative impact of external stressors on telomere length. Publishing in the journal PLoS ONE, the study team has shown that a common form of anxiety, known as phobic anxiety, was associated with shorter telomeres in middle-aged and older women. The study suggests that phobic anxiety is a possible risk factor for accelerated aging.

Telomeres are known to protect chromosomes from deteriorating and guard the genetic information at the ends of chromosomes during cell division. Telomeres are considered markers of biological or cellular aging, and premature shortening has been linked to increased risk of cancers, heart disease, dementia and mortality. Essentially, when a telomere has reached the end of its life-cycle, cell death ensues and the process of aging is accelerated, leading to increased risk of chronic disease.

Stress and anxiety reduction can add up to six years to your lifespan

To conduct the study, researchers obtained blood samples from 5,243 women, aged 42 to 69 years, who were participants in the Nurses' Health Study. The study team then analyzed the telomere length of white blood cells from all blood samples collected, and contrasted against the participants perceived degree of anxiety or stress related symptoms as determined by a validated questionnaire. The scientists noted this was the first cross-sectional study to analyze and compare telomere length (a measurable biomarker) with differing levels of stress.

The authors found that having a high phobic anxiety level was associated with significantly shorter telomere lengths. The difference between reported anxiety levels was shown to increase lifespan by a factor of six years for those experiencing the lowest degree of stress. The lead study author, Dr. Olivia Okereke concluded "this study is notable for showing a connection between a common form of psychological stress, phobic anxiety, and a plausible mechanism for premature aging."

Many people with phobic anxiety are placed on a deadly regimen of anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals that alter brain metabolism and neurotransmitter function. Common side effects include drowsiness, confusion, dizziness, memory problems, and physical dependence. Eliminating external stressors that are within your control by engaging in regular physical activity, meditation or yoga may be the key to extending your natural years by maintaining telomere integrity.

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About the author:
John Phillip is a Certified Nutritional Consultant and Health Researcher and Author who writes regularly on the cutting edge use of diet, lifestyle modifications and targeted supplementation to enhance and improve the quality and length of life. John is the author of 'Your Healthy Weight Loss Plan', a comprehensive EBook explaining how to use Diet, Exercise, Mind and Targeted Supplementation to achieve your weight loss goal. Visit My Optimal Health Resource to continue reading the latest health news updates, and to download your copy of 'Your Healthy Weight Loss Plan'.

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