There is a lot of evidence to suggest that emotional stress is perhaps the single greatest aging factor.We have all seen how quickly presidents age after four years (of fighting unnecessary wars, for example).This is because stress damages the body in many different ways.
One direct link between psychological stress and premature ageing has recently been identified by scientists.
The study involved 39 women aged 20 to 50 who had been experiencing extreme stress for years as a result of caring for a child with a chronic illness, and 19 other similar women whose children were healthy.
The researchers examined structures inside cells called telomeres. Telomeres are the caps at the ends of chromosomes that carry genes. Every time a cell divides, telomeres get shorter. In the natural aging process, the telomeres eventually get so short that the cell can no longer divide and dies.
As more and more cells die, the effects of aging can be noticed.These include skin wrinkles, weekend muscles, eyesight and hearing fade, organ failure, and diminished thinking abilities.
The researchers also measured levels of an enzyme called telomerase, which helps rebuild telomeres to stave off this process. Telomerase levels naturally decline with age.
The scientists discovered that chronic stress appears to accelerate this process. The longer a woman had been caring for a sick child and perceived their situation as stressful, the shorter her telomeres and the lower her levels of telomerase.
This study shows how interlinked our minds and bodies really are, and offers scientific proof that emotional stress is highly ageing.It further reveals how important stress busting practices such as meditation and yoga are for staying young.