Stress is a normal part of life, and genetically our bodies are geared up to handle it. We’ve all heard of the “Flight or Fight Response” – when are bodies sense danger, we go into defense mode. Having this response is a good thing unless it’s chronic. Chronic stress has been shown to negatively affect your body resulting in a myriad of health conditions such as high blood pressure, ulcers, and heart issues and can put you at a higher risk for stroke.
Then there is the mental health component of long-term stress. Most of us have experienced the mental side-effects of the pandemic – isolation, fear of illness, and for many, the loss of a loved one. Over time – your sleep and eating habits are affected, how you interact socially can shift, resulting in anxiety and depression.
Stress and the Body’s Immune Response
If Covid-19 taught us anything, it’s the power of one’s immune response to fight off infection and viruses.
A recent New York Times article shared some insightful new research that suggests certain types of stress can also age your immune system and therefore affect your immune response. The article noted this is all new and all the data isn’t in – but Eric Klopack, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher of gerontology at the University of Southern California noted, “As your immune system ages, your body has a less coordinated response to new threats because it produces different types of immune cells in different proportions than it does when you are younger. “
How to help counter the effects of stress on the body as you age
Renee Eddy, a psychotherapist based in New York City – noted stress takes a tangible toll on physical health. “Everyone is affected by stress differently, so the ways they process it can vary too. Focusing on what brings you joy, and where you can find social support, can help. That may mean pursuing hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or unplugging from work or social media when you can,” Eddy noted.
Noble Horizons uses a holistic approach to senior care. We see daily the power of movement, mindfulness, connection to community, enrichment of the mind – keeping your brain active and reducing stress to maintain healthy aging.
Programs such as the Stress Reduction Workshop led by Suzanne Mazzarelli are free to not only Noble residents but to anyone in the community who is concerned about the effects of chronic stress. Mazzarelli, the teacher of Noble’s weekly Therapeutic Movement class, specializes in techniques to address chronic stress, anxiety, aging and/or persistent pain. She offers participants strategies to connect the mind, body, and spirit, helping them feel more grounded and empowered during times of stress.
As we age, our body changes – it’s important to change how we treat our body as well. Eating well, staying fit, and keeping socially connected will all help reduce stress and possibly help your immune response. There are so many things we can’t control as we age – but being mindful of how we handle stressors is something we can control. The secret is to start healthy habits NOW!
Noble Horizons is a 501(c)(3) non-profit senior living community in Northwest Connecticut, offering independent and assisted living, skilled nursing care, rehabilitation, and memory care. This article is informational only and should not be construed as medical advice.