When seniors are stressed, they may feel irritable, short of breath, or tired. The impact of stress extends beyond these immediate symptoms, affecting the mind, body, and overall health on a molecular level. Read on to learn more about how stress affects aging.
The Stress Response
While the occasional stressful day probably isn’t cause for concern, chronic stress can impact physical and mental health. Anxiety triggers the body’s stress response, and stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are produced in large quantities. As these hormones course through the body, heart and breathing rates increase, which can put excess strain on aging bodies. While the stress response is beneficial in specific situations, the body isn’t designed to be in a perpetual state of anxiety, and it can lead to heart disease, weakened immunity, and other serious health conditions.
Stress & Cognitive Health
Stress doesn’t just impact physical health. The stress response also affects the brain. Cortisol and adrenaline aren’t confined to the heart and lungs. They also course through the brain, where they halt the production of short-term memories and hinder concentration. While these short-term effects are usually mitigated by a good night’s sleep, they can cause long-term damage if the mind is in a chronic state of stress. Elevated stress may even increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s can quickly take a toll on a senior’s health and wellbeing. The days, weeks, and months following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be challenging for both seniors and their families. However, these challenges can be made less stressful with the help of caregivers trained in professional Alzheimer’s care. Barrie Home Care Assistance is here to help your loved one enjoy the golden years while simultaneously managing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Hearing & Vision Health
When the body produces adrenaline, the blood vessels respond by constricting. The impact of this is mild at first, but over time, excessive adrenaline production can permanently constrict the blood vessels connected to the eyes and ears, which can have a negative impact on the health of these sensory systems, speeding up the vision and hearing loss associated with old age.
The physical aging process occurs on a cellular level. As humans get older, the body’s protein molecules lose the ability to repair DNA strands, which precipitates cellular damage and death. Research suggests long-term stress can shorten the length of telomeres, the caps that protect the ends of chromosomes. When telomeres shorten, they can no longer perform key functions, leaving the chromosomes they protect unable to divide or repair themselves. The processes that promote cellular restoration come to a halt, and the cellular aging process speeds up. Short telomere lengths have been linked to elevated stress levels experienced during childhood and adulthood. To delay the cellular aging process, seniors should try to lower their stress levels.
Seniors aren’t the only ones with high stress levels. Sometimes family caregivers are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring for their loved ones. If you’re the primary family caregiver for an elderly loved one and need additional assistance providing high-quality home care, Home Care Assistance can help. We are a leading home care agency committed to changing the way seniors age.
Stress & Lifestyle Choices
When aging adults are constantly anxious, they’re less likely to make healthy lifestyle choices that could mitigate their stress. Research suggests stress leads people to skip their exercise regimens, eat unhealthy foods, and sleep poorly. These habits further accelerate the aging process.
To treat chronic anxiety, seniors should make healthy lifestyle choices and find effective outlets for stress relief. Sleeping eight hours a night, eating well, and exercising can stabilize the body’s stress response. Stress relief methods like breathing exercises, meditation, and therapy can give seniors the tools they need to navigate stressful situations.
Stress can result in mental, emotional, and physical challenges for aging adults, but they don’t have to manage them alone. Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same type of home care service. Barrie families can rely on Home Care Assistance to provide individualized care plans to meet their elderly loved ones’ unique care needs. Our holistic Balanced Care Method was designed to help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and our Cognitive Therapeutics Method offers mentally stimulating activities that can stave off cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia. Call us at 647-970-3803 to learn about our comprehensive in-home care plans.