How the effects of increased stress hormones can affect ageing
Stress is unavoidable. It’s one of the unfortunate realities of everyday human existence. To live is to be stressed out about something. Work, relationships, family, past traumas, global events, local events—all these and more can contribute to that lingering feeling of stress that’s constantly bubbling behind our eyeballs.
However, stress isn’t just mental, and its effects can cause lasting strains on not just our mental health but also our physical wellbeing. Stress is caused by a physical process, the release of the hormone cortisol into our systems as a response to perceived danger or heightened emotional states. An evolutionary development from a time when it was necessary to keep us alive in situations where we might need to be able to run faster, jump higher, or be constantly on alert, it isn’t optimized for the kind of prolonged states of emotional and mental stress that are much more common in everyday life today.
Fortunately, human life has changed over the past few thousand years. We no longer have to worry about predators, and our fight-or-flight responses don’t see as much use as they did back when we were still hunting and gathering. However, though times might change pretty quickly, evolution occurs over a much vaster time scale. This means that even though the things that trigger our stress responses have changed, unfortunately, our bodies still react the same way they did to being stalked by a lion as we made our way through the savannah, as they do to extended periods of everyday stress—things like constantly checking emails after-hours, and not being able to turn ourselves off.
Thanks, evolution. Not dramatic at all.
So, what does this mean for us? For the most part, it means that a process that was supposed to be a short-lasting emergency response, now takes place over a longer period of time. During prolonged periods of stress, our bodies constantly produce the stress hormone, cortisol, which means that we can wind up with an imbalanced amount of it. Cortisol increases our ability to focus in the moment, keeps our energy levels elevated, and suppresses functions like our libidos, which aren’t considered necessary to our survival – all great things for escaping danger, but less good for living everyday life.
Persistently high levels of stress have been linked to, among other things, increased risk of heart disease and stroke, changes in metabolism and digestion, increased risk of diabetes, and psychological conditions including dementia and PTSD. Shockingly, it turns out that having your brain constantly marinating in cortisol soup doesn’t do great things for your overall mental health. And here’s the kicker—studies have shown that it also ages you.
All those things—mental function, digestion, cellular regeneration, memories, energy levels, sleep—are all systems that naturally become more fragile as we age, as our bodies have to work harder and harder to keep things running the way that they used to. They’re also all systems which can have a combined effect on us feeling (and looking) older than we are.
Take cellular regeneration for instance. It sounds like science fiction, but what it’s really referring to is the way that our body repairs itself from day-to-day damage. If you go to the gym and lift weights, and feel like your muscles are sore afterwards, what you’re actually experiencing is thousands of tiny micro-tears to your muscle fibres. Part of the process of recovery is your body naturally repairing these tears and reinforcing them by building new muscle tissues. In order for that process to work, the body needs an appropriate amount of rest, time when it can dedicate energy to the recovery process, and it needs vitamins and nutrients to have the raw materials it needs to make the necessary repairs. That means that digestion is also a key feature in cellular regeneration.
Since stress messes with digestion and sleep, both of which are key components of cellular regeneration and muscle repair, the more time we spend experiencing an excess level of stress, the harder a time our bodies have trying to maintain their optimal states.
Basically, our bodies are one big jenga tower, and stress is out here plucking out block after block, making the whole thing more and more unstable until eventually it comes crashing down.
All of this is one of the reasons why hormone balancing procedures have become more and more popular. Revitalization procedures don’t always have to come on the edge of a scalpel. Sometimes, small changes (when you know where and how to make them) are just as effective in changing the way that we look and feel, and most importantly, how we feel about the way we look. That’s not to say that it’s as simple as just changing your diet or exercising more—while those are great places to start in general, they oftentimes don’t treat the underlying conditions that are causing imbalanced hormones, and so while initial results can be promising, there can be backsliding, or prolonged plateaus, which can derail everything.
Take stress for example. Exercise and diet are both linked to healthy lifestyles, and living a healthier lifestyle is proven to reduce stress. However, deeper-seated issues, like anxiety disorders, PTSD, and even just being stressed about how stressed you feel can tip the scales, even when positive steps are being made.
Companies like Ageless Living focus on a two-pronged approach to hormone balancing. By developing a bioidentical hormone profile for their clients, their physicians can identify those underlying issues, and begin to treat hormone imbalances at their source, rather than just symptom by symptom, helping their clients achieve long-term success in leading healthier, more vibrant, and more fulfilling lives.
Are you ready to discover your best self? Learn more about hormone balancing.