Dr. Bowden explains how stress advances aging.
It’s interesting about stress because we think of stress as this kind of western thing that people say, oh I am just so stressed out, like it’s just all in our mind.
But actually there are very profound physiological components to stress. When you are under stress your adrenal glands, two little glands that sit on the top of the kidney, actually pump out hormones like cortisol and adrenalin.
Now if you have ever been in a situation where there’s a little danger, you felt adrenalin, you feel that thing carousing through your blood stream – that’s adrenalin.
Cortisol is another hormone and we call these fight or flight hormones because they served very important evolutionary purpose.
If you were lying on the African Savannah and a wildebeest is coming along, cortisol and adrenalin shoot through your body to allow you to either pick up a club and fight it off, or to shimmy up a tree.
So they get you prepared for action and as such these stress hormones are protective to you evolutionary-wise.
They are protective to the being, to the species living because again, if you didn’t have that protective thing going on in your brain when you saw the wildebeest, you’d become lunch.
So it’s very important that we have these stress hormones but they were meant to be emergency-only.
They were meant to be turned on, they are like the power generator – when the lights go out then the generator goes on.
You don’t want the generator on all the time. In modern life it’s on all the time and our bodies can’t tell the difference between a wildebeest that’s going to eat us for lunch and a boss who wants his report in by 5 o’clock.
The body still responds as if it’s a life-threatening situation so the stress hormones are constantly on.
Now what happens to them? Those stress hormones shrink a part of the brain called the hippocampus which is involved in thinking and memory and cognition.
They add weight to the middle because one of the messages that cortisol has when it’s sent through the email system of your body’s hormones and receptors is, store fat around the middle.
And there are evolutionary reasons for that but that’s the bottom line. You have stress fat and it’s usually around the belly and that is the most dangerous kind of fat. So there are very profound implications to having stress be on all the time.
Stress, when I wrote “The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer” I pointed out something I still think is true – stress doesn’t necessarily cause a disease. Stress doesn’t cause cancer. You can’t get cancer because you are stressed.
But stress makes recovery from almost any disease much more arduous. It can slow it down. It can make it be impossible. It can extend the time that you’re sick. It can contribute to the severity of the disease.
So even though it may not cause it when it’s in the mix and when it’s constantly elevated like that it makes everything worse and it contributes to every major degenerative disease and that’s why stress is one of the four horsemen of aging.
Dr. Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.:
Dr. Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S, is a nutrition expert specializing in anti-aging and weight loss. Dr. Bowden has a Master’s Degree in psychology and counseling and a Ph.D. in nutrition. He has earned six national certifications in personal training and exercise. He is board certified by the American College of Nutrition and is adjunct faculty at Clayton College for Natural Health based in Birmingham, Alabama.