Knowing How Stress Affects Longevity and How to Handle It
While therapy, yoga, and meditation were once regarded as unconventional, they are now acknowledged for their beneficial effects on our mental and physical health. This change in perspective has occurred at the same time that the stress management market is expected to expand quickly, from $17.2 billion in 2019 to $20.6 billion by 2024.
Why is stress management receiving more attention?
We're (hopefully) all aware that stress is bad for our health, but to what extent is it harmful? Chronic stress can shorten one's lifespan by up to three years, according to recent Yale research. There is a bright side, though: emotional control and self-control can lessen these negative effects.
What is stress? Stress is a physiological response to pressure influenced by individual circumstances, genetics, and upbringing, rather than an emotion. Stress-related hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine are released by our bodies in response to stressors.
«Eustress» is a constructive type of stress that can inspire us without causing undue distress. Not all stress is bad. Furthermore, a healthy dose of cellular stress can prolong our lives.
The true danger is "distress," which can be classified as either chronic (toxic stress) or acute (episodic). Numerous physical and mental health problems can result from chronic stress, particularly when it is not properly managed.
How does stress affect longevity?
Here are some examples.
Physiological Effects: Chronically high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can cause diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, early aging, and other conditions.
Chronic stress can lead to chronic inflammation, which has been connected to a number of serious illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Immune System: Stress impairs immunity, increasing the body's vulnerability to illnesses and infections.
Lifestyle Choices: Unhealthy coping strategies such as binge eating, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and not exercising are frequently brought on by chronic stress.
Mental Health: Prolonged stress can cause anxiety and depression, which can drastically shorten one's life.
Telomere Shortening: Long-term stress quickens the telomere shortening process, which is linked to age-related illnesses like cancer.
Social Isolation: Prolonged stress raises the risk of social isolation, which raises the possibility of dying young from age-related illnesses.
Stress's Effect on Metabolic Pathways
Chronic stress has been shown to have negative impacts on both mental and physical health in addition to upsetting a number of vital metabolic processes in the body. Comprehending the impact of stress on these processes is essential to understanding its overall effects on our well-being.
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that Beyond You, an advanced tool for metabolic analysis, provides an in-depth examination of all the metabolic pathways in the human body, including those related to stress. By detecting alterations in these pathways, Beyond You offers the opportunity to identify and address potential issues, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of how stress can affect your metabolic health.
Here are some of the primary metabolic pathways that we can analyze with Beyond You and can become dysregulated under chronic stress.
1. Glucocorticoid Hormones and Gluconeogenesis:
Under stress, the body releases glucocorticoid hormones like cortisol, which play a key role in glucose regulation.
Cortisol stimulates the process of gluconeogenesis, where the liver produces glucose from non-carbohydrate sources, such as amino acids and glycerol.
While this is essential for providing energy in a fight-or-flight response, prolonged cortisol release can lead to elevated blood sugar levels, contributing to insulin resistance and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
2. Adipose Tissue Metabolism:
Stress can lead to the accumulation of abdominal fat, often referred to as «stress belly.»
Chronic stress triggers the release of cortisol, which promotes fat storage in the abdominal region.
Abdominal fat is associated with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.
3. Inflammation and the Immune System:
Stress-induced inflammation is linked to metabolic dysregulation.
Chronic inflammation can interfere with insulin signaling, contributing to insulin resistance and, subsequently, type 2 diabetes.
Moreover, sustained activation of the immune system can negatively impact metabolic health and lead to systemic inflammation.
4. Appetite Regulation:
Stress can disrupt the normal regulation of appetite and eating patterns.
Some individuals respond to stress by overeating or consuming comfort foods, leading to weight gain and potential metabolic disturbances.
Others may experience a loss of appetite, which can result in inadequate nutrient intake and energy imbalances.
5. Gut Microbiota:
Chronic stress may alter the composition and diversity of the gut microbiota.
An imbalanced gut microbiome is associated with various metabolic conditions, including obesity and metabolic syndrome.
6. Lipid Metabolism:
Stress can impact lipid metabolism, leading to elevated levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
Dyslipidemia is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.
7. HPA Axis and Insulin Resistance:
The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, which governs the stress response, interacts with insulin signaling pathways.
Chronic activation of the HPA axis can lead to insulin resistance, impairing glucose uptake by cells.
Managing stress through the strategies mentioned earlier not only benefits your mental and physical well-being but also helps maintain the proper functioning of these metabolic pathways. It’s clear that stress affects our body on multiple levels, and understanding the interplay between stress and metabolism is vital for taking proactive steps to maintain a healthy and balanced life.