Can Anxiety And Loss Of Estrogen Age Women?
By: Holly L. Thacker, MD • Posted on October 05, 2018
Anxiety In Women
The mental effects of anxiety translate to physical effects, which include changes at the molecular and genetic level. Telomeres are DNA-protein complexes that cap chromosomes and promote chromosome stability.
Telomere shortening has been shown to occur in anxious individuals and this shortening of the genetic material in your cells has been estimated to age someone by at least 6-10 years!
Recent research has shown that women’s reproductive factors affect aging and telomere length.
- Stress hormones, glucocorticoids and inflammation all shorten telomeres.
- Cigarette smoking accelerates aging and thus shortens telomeres.
- Chronic stress and childhood adversity can shorten telomeres.
- Loneliness can shorten telomeres nearly as much as cigarette smoking!
Shorter telomeres have been associated with a higher risk for the following:
- heart disease
On the flip-side, long telomeres are related to healthy aging and overall longevity. Yoga, a heart healthy diet and increased physical activity can protect telomeres from shortening.
- Longer telomeres are associated with a later menopause and later menopause is associated with a longer life span!
- Women start out with longer telomeres compared to men and tend to live an average 5 years longer than men.
- Estrogen exposure increases telomerase activity throughout the body, which can protect and elongate telomeres.
- Happily married people tend to have longer telomeres and longer lifespans.
5 Things That Protect Telomeres and Avoid Aging
I have seen countless women plagued by anxiety disorders like panic attacks, phobias and generalized anxiety disorders.They are distraught, exhausted and are hyper-vigilant and are unfortunately, likely accelerating their aging process.Although, this is a new area of research, it appears we can act to protect our telomeres and maintain telomere length -- and increase our health and longevity.
- Avoid inactivity
- Avoid weight gain
- Don't Smoke
- Eat a healthy diet
- Reduce anxiety levels
5 Ways To Reduce Anxiety Levels
1. See Your Physician
There are many medications and non-medication therapies to help reset the autonomic nervous system. One should never suffer from continued panic attacks. Every week some woman visits my clinic wondering if her female hormones ‘are out of balance.’ Many times it is not the estrogen or progesterone that is out of balance, but rather too much adrenaline. If you are plagued by excessive fear, anxiety or a phobia, please be sure to visit a trusted physician.
2. Take a Deep Breath
So, whenever you look at the clock and realize you are late (something that happens to me daily), take a deep cleansing breath.
3. Take a Walk
Rather than brood about a problem, get out and take a brisk walk.
4. Do Yoga
Yoga therapy focuses on a mind-body connection through controlled breathing and mindfulness. Research suggests that those who incorporate the same mindfulness they have on their mat into their regular lives have less day-to-day anxiety. Yoga has been said to increase levels of GABA in the brain, a neurotransmitter whose levels are directly correlated to anxiety, mood and stress.
5. Get a Massage
When you feel stressed and want to reach for some high carb, high fat, non-nutritional snack, ask for a massage instead.
Today, when I sat back and relaxed during my glorious pedicure (an iridescent French pink) and foot massage, I thought that my telomeres were lengthening. Take time every day to nurture yourself and seek personal peace. Your telomeres will thank you!
Be Strong. Be Healthy. Be in Charge!
-Holly L. Thacker MD
Holly L. Thacker, MD, FACP is nationally known for her leadership in women’s health. She is the founder of the Cleveland Clinic Specialized Women’s Health Fellowship and is currently the Professor and Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at Cleveland Clinic and Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Thacker is also the Executive Director of Speaking of Women’s Health and the author of The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause. Her special interests and areas of research including menopause and related medical problems including osteoporosis, hormone therapy, breast cancer risk assessment, menstrual disorders, female sexual dysfunction and interdisciplinary women’s health.