A new finding may explain how stress could ultimately lead to premature aging. Chronic psychological stress is associated with accelerated shortening of the caps, called telomeres, on the ends of chromosomes in white blood cells – which causes them to die more quickly — according to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Telomeres promote chromosome stability, Dr. Elissa S. Epel at the University of California, San Francisco, explains. Telomeres shorten with each replication of the cell, and cells cease dividing when telomeres shorten sufficiently. Researchers investigated the theory that psychological stress affects telomere shortening and thereby contributes to accelerated aging.
The study included 39 healthy, premenopausal women who were primary caregivers for a child with a chronic illness, and 19 age-matched mothers of healthy children who served as a comparison “control” group. Stress was measured with a standardized questionnaire, and telomere length was measured in participants’ blood samples.
Within the caregiving group, the longer that a woman had been a caregiver, the shorter was the length of telomeres. In the 14 women with the highest stress scores, telomeres averaged 3,110 units in length; the 14 with the lowest stress had telomeres that averaged 3,660 units.
In adults, telomeres shorten by an average of 31 to 63 units per year, so the scientists estimate that the 550-unit shortening in the high-stress group translates to 9 to 17 additional years of aging. These findings may have implications for human health since telomere shortening is also associated with premature death from cardiovascular disease and infections.
While the number of years that mothers had been a caregiver did matter, “not all caregivers fell into the high-stress group,” she added. “This points to the importance of trying to use stress reduction interventions as much as possible.”
-Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Dr. Keith & Laurie Nemec comments on Stress Ages Your Cells:
This interesting study shows how stress decreases the life span of white blood cells, thus weakening your immune system. Also found was an accelerated aging of cells which increases risk of cancer, heart disease and most other diseases.
What is stress? It is an external force or concept/idea that has the power to destroy the wholeness of body, mind and emotions of a person.
The real issue is not about stress but how you perceive the situation. This was seen in the study that not all the caregivers of children with chronic illness fell into the high stress group. Why? Attitude, belief and faith.
Our attitude is how we see and react to life’s situations. The more we follow what God puts in our heart and the less we follow what the world system has filled our head with, the more we have the attitude of God. The greatest stressor in your life is not your job, your money, your disease, or your marriage. The greatest stressor is your choosing to believe the lies that your world-filled old mind has been speaking to you your whole life. The greatest comfort is seeing God’s plan behind everything in this life. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. This life journey is made up of tests and trails along the path.
When we come to one, we are called by God to overcome them in His strength, not ours, and to be transformed into His image and glory. Do you think the mother of the chronically ill child is stressed when she is offering her life to God as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him, and is she stressed when she is there loving her child every moment, just thanking God for the child’s blessing in her life. No, she only becomes stressed when she is filled with the ego, world-filled mind that compares and wants to be somewhere else than where she is. This is the definition of suffering; always wanted to be somewhere else than where you are. To close, think about this: is it better to have given and received love from a child with illness or never to have had the child at all?
Another example of how stress is a product of the mind and how you perceive life situations: I you were sitting in your house and a man knocked on the door and said your child just was run over by a car. If you believe his words, your heart rate would increase, your adrenal gland would start pumping out adrenaline, your emotions would skyrocket the tears would begin to flow. But, if you know that your child is in the next room playing you would dismiss his words as a lie and continue doing what you were doing with no change in your physical or mental emotional state. What was the difference? KNOWING. The difference between perceiving life as a stress or not is KNOWING God is behind everything and He will not leave or forsake you, and that He will not ever put you in any situation that you cannot handle but will always leave a way out or up as you climb over the tests, trials and obstacles in your life on your journey into being transformed into His image and glory.
KNOWING is more powerful than believing and believing is more powerful than thinking.