Is anxiety related to premature aging? It seems obvious.
Researchers say that according to the oxidation-inflammation theory of aging which is chronic oxidative stress and inflammatory stress situations (with higher levels of oxidant and inflammatory compounds and lower antioxidant and anti-inflammatory defenses) are the basis of the age related impairment of organism functions, including those of the nervous and immune systems, as well as of the neuroimmune communication, which explains the altered homeostasis (a biological balance) and the resulting increase of disease and death.
This has been documented in famous studies on mice in which animals show a poor response to stress and high levels of anxiety, an oxidative stress in their immune cells and tissues, as well as a premature immunosenescence and a shorter life expectancy.
This supports the hypothesis that anxiety can be a situation of chronic oxidative stress and inflammation, especially in brain and immune cells, and this accelerates the rate of aging.1
What did all that mean? Oxidants cause inflammation – this is why many research papers recommend anti-oxidant rich diets and supplementation.
To get more scientific – A recent study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) shows 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 DNA-protein complexes at the ends of chromosomes.
- They 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. Shortened telomeres have been linked to increased risk of cancers, heart disease, dementia and mortality.
Now that we understand telomeres and their relationship to stress and anxiety
“Many people wonder about whether-and how-stress can make us age faster,” said Olivia Okereke, MD, MS, BWH Department of Psychiatry, study author. “So, this study is notable for showing a connection between a common form of psychological stress-phobic anxiety-and a plausible mechanism for premature aging.”
Feeling Younger Than Actual Age Meant Lower Death Rate for Older People
A research letter published online by JAMA Internal Medicine found that older people who felt three or more years younger than their chronological age had a lower death rate compared with those who felt their age or who felt more than one year older than their actual age.
Self-perceived age can reflect assessments of health, physical limitation and well-being in later life, and many older people feel younger than their actual age, according background information in the report. Authors Isla Rippon, M.Sc., and Andrew Steptoe, D.Sc., of the University College London, examined the relationship between self-perceived age and mortality.
The authors used data from a study on aging and included 6,489 individuals, whose average chronological age was 65.8 years but whose average self-perceived age was 56.8 years. Most of the adults (69.6 percent) felt three or more years younger than their actual age, while 25.6 percent had a self-perceived age close to their real age and 4.8 percent felt more than a year older than their chronological age.
Mortality rates during an average follow-up of 99 months were 14.3 percent in adults who felt younger, 18.5 percent in those who felt about their actual age and 24.6 percent in those adults who felt older, according to the study results.
- The relationship between self-perceived age and cardiovascular death was strong but there was no association between self-perceived age and cancer death.
“The mechanisms underlying these associations merit further investigation. Possibilities include a broader set of health behaviors than we measured (such as maintaining a healthy weight and adherence to medical advice), and greater resilience, sense of mastery and will to live among those who feel younger than their age. Self-perceived age has the potential to change, so interventions may be possible. Individuals who feel older than their actual age could be targeted with health messages promoting positive health behaviors and attitudes toward aging,” the study concludes.2
At the Magaziner Center for Wellness, when we see a patients with stress, anxiety, or fears we look at patient’s physical state and treat any triggers of depression/anxiety without the use of medication. Many times these fears are related simply to aging and the natural consequence of wear and tear.
We look at many things, food sensitivities and allergies – as reactions to wheat, for example, and other elements have been linked to stress, depression, and anxiety.
If such sensitivities are detected, we work with the patient to modify his/her diet and environment to eliminate the element’s negative impact. We also look at their exposure to mold and other environmental irritants, such as building materials and household chemicals, which often harm the nervous system and impact mood.
Please explore this articles on our website about well-being, stress, anxiety, and depression
1 Vida C, González EM, De la Fuente M. Increase of oxidation and inflammation in nervous and immune systems with aging and anxiety. Curr Pharm Des. 2014;20(29):4656-78. Review.
2. (JAMA Intern Med. Published online December 15, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6580)