How stress accelerates aging

Have you ever made it through a stressful life experience, only to come out on the other side looking and feeling older than you really are?

The stress response

Stress triggers a cascade of biological reactions. Also known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, the stress response is hard-wired into all of us and it’s evolved to help the body cope with stress of all kinds. The purpose of the fight or flight response is to help mobilize the body’s energy and rise to any challenge in the face of real danger. The trouble is that our environment has changed much faster than our body has been able to keep up with, so although we may not be fighting for survival like our ancestors once may have been, we are exposed to a steady stream of modern-day stressors that our body can perceive to be just as bad.

This means that anytime you feel a heightened sense of stress, those same mechanisms are triggered in an attempt to help you to ‘fight or flight’. Your heart rate increases, blood pumps to your muscles and hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are released to help you utilize energy. But what happens if there’s no immediate threat to your survival? Instead, it could be that you’re just about to walk into a job interview, or you’re preparing to give an important presentation. While these situations aren't life-threatening, they can still induce the same fight or flight response based on how your body perceives them.

How stress influences aging

Stress plays a big role in aging. As your chief stress hormone, cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and regulated by the HPA-axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) when your fight or flight response is triggered. In a healthy stress response, cortisol rises to help the body use its energy reserves, then returns to normal levels once the perceived stress has passed. But if you’re dealing with constant stress – whether that’s financially, physically, work related or within your personal life, your stress response can become dysregulated, and cortisol can remain high. While this stress hormone is crucial for normal body function, it can tip the body into a state of oxidative stress when produced in excess.

Oxidative stress

Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. There is even a free radical theory of aging the suggests the damage inflicted by this imbalance is what accelerates the process of aging. Oxidative stress can cause damage to cells, proteins and DNA which can all influence the aging process.

Telomere length

Stress also affects telomeres – a portion of DNA found in your chromosomes that act as a protective cap that shields your DNA from damage. The longer your telomeres are, the more protection they can give. As you age and your cells continue to replicate, the shorter your telomeres become – but alongside aging, there are other factors that can reduce the length of your telomeres: stress.

Mitochondrial function

Finally – there’s your mitochondria (aka the energy batteries within your cells). These powerful organelles provide your cells and your body with the energy to function, and they naturally produce antioxidants needed to combat free radicals. But as you age, your mitochondria stop producing as many antioxidants and it becomes much easier for your cells to experience oxidative stress caused by free radical damage – which can speed up the body’s aging process.

How to support stress to encourage healthy aging

Embrace ‘good’ stress

Hormetic stress (good stress) is the stress ‘sweet spot’ that is switched on when the body is being challenged in a healthy way. The most researched ways to increase hormetic stress include things like high intensity interval training, saunas or cold exposure.

Supplement with antioxidants

The stress response increases the demands of your body and places a heavy burden on mitochondria to generate more energy. If you’re frequently experiencing a state of fight-or-flight, your mitochondria may struggle to meet these increased energy demands – which can impact the body’s ability to support free radical balance. Antioxidants play a crucial role in the function of our nervous system, and by reducing oxidative damage, antioxidants can support a healthy stress response.

Reframe how you respond to stress

Choosing to approach stress from a positive perspective isn’t about denying the fact that stress can be harmful, it’s about helping you experience it in a way that's less taxing on your body, and better for your health. While we don’t often get to choose the stress in our lives, we can control how we respond to it. Anxiousness and excitability are emotional phenomenon born from the same neural networks, and a recent study found that we can re-purpose our anxiousness into excitement simply by using positive language.

Protect your mitochondria

A hallmark of aging is the gradual slowing down of the body, which is something that our mitochondria experience before we do. When you protect your mitochondria and support their ability to mitigate oxidative stress, they can continue operating at their optimal efficiency — and so can your body.

Learn more about the science of MitoQ.

Consider taking adaptogens

Adaptogens are a class of herbs traditionally used to support the body in many ways. As the name suggests, adaptogens are said to help the body ‘adapt’ to stress and support the regulation of the HPA-axis (aka your stress response). By supporting the body’s resistance to physical and emotional stress, adaptogens may reduce the impact of stress on the body – focusing on the effects of cortisol and acting as a buffer for stress.

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Everyday stress relief

MitoQ adrenal +balance has been specially formulated with ingredients to help support and maintain healthy adrenal function and balance cortisol levels.

MitoQ adrenal +balance bottle

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