You know that the symptoms connected to stress can damage your health. That’s old news. But today, we know that the wear and tear stress puts your body through is worse than we knew…
It goes all the way down to your DNA.
And a breakthrough new study proves it.
Were you directly involved in any severe weather events the country suffered over the last few years?
I’m talking about hurricanes, tornados, wildfires, floods, storms, droughts, extreme heatwaves, and extreme winter cold that destroyed 15 million homes across the country.
It turns out these stressful weather events can speed up the aging process.
Scientists at Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences recently discovered that the stress triggered by extreme weather events could result in internal inflammation storms and molecular changes. These can cause your body to accelerate aging and cut your life short by a staggering 7-8 years.1
The researchers, who studied the biological impact of Hurricane Maria after it slammed into Puerto Rico in September 2017, found that the stress levels activated by the category 4 storm caused the down-regulation of specific genes associated with chronic inflammation.
In turn, this dramatically raised the risk of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Impaired immune system function
The aging impact of the hurricane on gene expression was a reflection of the damage being done to the telomeres of the storm victims.
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that telomeres are the tiny tails at the end of each strand of DNA in the nucleus of each of your cells. They are also your hidden biological clock and determine how fast you age.
The longer your telomeres are, the younger your cells act. The shorter your telomeres, the more prone you are to chronic diseases and “old age.”
Multiple studies show that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol attack your telomeres, grinding them down and accelerating the aging process.2
As weather events grow more severe and more frequent, it’s crucial that you understand the effects of this natural-disaster stress on your body – so you can do something about it.
I recommend protecting yourself from stress-induced DNA damage with omega-3s.
Researchers at Ohio State University gave 138 people difficult problems to solve, then studied their bodies’ reactions.
For subjects taking 2.5 grams of omega-3s daily, it was smooth sailing. They had 19% lower cortisol levels and 33% fewer inflammatory proteins than normal.3
But for those taking a placebo instead of omega-3s, oh my! They experienced a 25% drop in telomerase, the enzyme that keeps telomeres long and healthy.
That’s alarming because old age and frailty are right around the corner without enough telomerase to repair your telomeres.
They also had a 20% DROP in healthy, anti-inflammatory proteins.4
There are several highly effective ways to protect your telomeres from the ravages of stress – but here’s one of my favorites.
Try the “mind trick” the U.S. Marines use
This mindfulness meditation exercise, used by the U.S. Marines and Special Forces to knock out stress, is also one of the most powerful methods for preventing telomere erosion.5
But it’s not only Marines who use this trick. One study looked at family caregivers in their incredibly stressful jobs. Researchers found that after only eight weeks, those who meditated saw their levels of telomerase, the enzyme that rebuilds telomeres, skyrocket by 43%.6.
Here’s the technique the Marines and Special Forces use, and you can use it too. One thing to remember is that the benefits come from being mindful and focusing on your concentration.
- Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
- Let your awareness settle on the movement of your breath.
- Follow the in-breath and out-breath, perhaps by saying “breathing in, breathing out” quietly to yourself.
- Sit upright, with spine straightened and chin tucked in, while you calmly observe your breath.
- Do this for 10 to 15 minutes a day.
That’s it. Try to do this practice every day. It helps to lower blood pressure, slow down your thoughts, refresh your body and mind, and reverse the stress that can shorten your telomeres and cause disease.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Snyder-Mackler N, et al. “Natural disaster and immunological aging in a nonhuman primate.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Feb 22;119(8):e2121663119.
2. “Role of oxidative stress in telomere shortening in cultured fibroblasts from normal individuals and patients with ataxia-telangiectasia.” Hum Mol Gen 2003.
3. Madison A, et al. “Omega-3 supplementation and stress reactivity of cellular aging biomarkers: an ancillary substudy of a randomized, controlled trial in midlife adults.” Mol Psychiatry. 2021 Jul;26(7):3034-3042.
4. Madison A, et al. “Omega-3 supplementation and stress reactivity of cellular aging biomarkers: an ancillary substudy of a randomized, controlled trial in midlife adults.” Mol Psychiatry. 2021 Jul;26(7):3034-3042.
5. Mockenhaupt B. “A State of Military Mind” Pacific Standard. www.psmag.com. June 18, 2012. Retrieved Jan 21, 2013.
6. Lavretsky H, et. al. “A pilot study of yogic meditation … effects on mental health, cognition, and telomerase activity.” Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2013;28(1):57-65.