It might be well-known that high levels of stress can have an impact on your overall health and happiness. But there may be more to it than that – stress has recently been shown to cause aging. For senior wellness and memory care, reducing your stress can have a major impact on the longevity of your life and risk of disease.
What stress does to you
Telomeres, the part of the chromosome that affects how cells age, shorten from stress and actually speed up the aging process. There are serious consequences from shortened telomeres for memory care, such as an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Fortunately, telomeres can also be lengthened by healthy lifestyle changes and create healthier cells and a longer life.
For senior wellness, adapting a few lifestyle changes to reduce stress is the best way to slow down the aging process and protect your brain from losing any cognitive function from aging. In some cases, it is even possible to reverse disease. Find an exercise that you enjoy, or partake in an activity with a friend or family member. The more you enjoy something, the more likely it is that it will be a regular part of your health plan.
In a study by the University of California San Francisco, the effect of exercise on telomeres was profound. Aerobic activity was found to act as a "buffer" for stress, preventing telomeres from shortening and reducing the rate of cells aging.
"Telomere length is increasingly considered a biological marker of the accumulated wear and tear of living, integrating genetic influences, lifestyle behaviors, and stress,'' said Elissa Epel, an associate professor at UCSF. "Even a moderate amount of vigorous exercise appears to provide a critical amount of protection for the telomeres."
In order to gain the anti-aging benefits from exercise, seniors need to adopt a regular fitness regimen. Getting exercise for 30 minutes a day, five times per week is the recommended amount for seniors. Aerobic activity like walking, jogging, biking and swimming are excellent ways to reduce stress and maintain a healthy body weight. Other moderate exercises like yoga and meditation have been proven to be good supplemental exercises to relax.
According to a new study by the Preventative Medicine Research Institute, small changes like eating a diet dense in vegetables can have serious health effects – even reversing some chronic diseases and helping in restoring memory. The study concluded that those who adopted a healthier lifestyle – including both diet and regular exercise – had increased their lifespan by reducing their risk of disease and stress levels.
"So often, people think it has to be a new drug or laser, something really high-tech and expensive, to be powerful," founder of the Institute, Dean Ornish, told Bloomberg. "Our studies are showing that simple changes in our lifestyle have powerful impacts in ways that we can measure."
Senior nutrition that is nutrient dense with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat or nonfat dairy products is the healthiest diet to reduce stress and maintain a normal body weight.
The amount of sleep that you get can also have a big impact on your health and memory. Your mood and stress level can also be affected if you are sleep deprived. There is no magic number of hours everyone needs to sleep each night, but for seniors, not getting enough sleep can result in cognitive decline in memory.
It is important to keep a regular sleep schedule that will allow you to get between seven and nine hours each night. If you're unable to fall asleep when it's time to go to bed, try reading or listening to soft music until you become sleepy. Don't drink caffeine late in the day or evening, and try to exercise earlier in the day to give your body more time to wind down.