Emotions about Aging Impact Stress, Health

Researchers know stress and cholesterol are linked. But, how is less clear. Whether high cholesterol is a direct result of stress or if it’s related to common ways people react to stress — overeating, poor sleep, alcohol, and so on — scientists aren’t sure. Getting a healthy amount of sleep and meditating for 15-20 minutes a day can lower stress and anxiety, in turn lowering adrenaline and cortisol. Having the stress well in hand can improve your mental and physical health. It can also help you make good life choices — such as meal decisions based off of logic and goals instead of in response to negative emotion.

Stress is more than just an unpleasant and grating feeling that can lead to anxiousness. On top of impacting your cholesterol, stress can have a lot of other negative impacts, mentally and physically. It upsets sleep patterns, intestinal health and the immune system. It also has been linked to heart disease, unstable blood sugar and more. It can lead to panic attacks and long-lasting anxiety.

Scientists now believe our attitudes about aging may impact stress levels and how we handle that stress. In surveys, from the West Health Institute and the National Opinion Research Center at the Univ. of Chicago, they found that older people who saw aging in a negative way have stronger emotional reactions to routine stress than people who were more positive about aging. It seemed that that optimistic views helped them to ignore trivial problems.

Moreover, they were less likely to die young or be hospitalized. Those positive benefits may be linked not to their positiveness but their stress levels. As mentioned above, stress damages the body and, if it rolls off your back, it doesn’t harm you the same way even when you are in a stressful situation. Unsurprisingly, the people who were dourer in their outlook were also more likely to worry about their wellbeing — both current and future — while being less satisfied with their lives.

So, what can you do to protect yourself from the worry of getting older? Helping your physical health — and staying on top of any health problems you have — can not only aid your physical wellbeing: it can also help you relax. Being more active in your community as either a volunteer or a participant can also give you a sense of belonging. Many people in the study were worried about government programs meant to protect older people failing in the future. By having a strong community, you’ll know that not only can people depend on you, but you can rely on others. Additionally, volunteering with kids can help a person gain perspective: aging allows us to learn, grow and share our experiences with younger people. Then aging can be empowering instead of something to fear. And, if those tactics don’t work, mindfulness needn’t be a dirty word.
July 18, 2019
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