Stress and Senior HealthNovember 19, 2018
Stress is our body’s natural reaction to sensing danger or negative environmental changes. Stress triggers the production of adrenaline and cortisol, increases our heart rate, heightens our reaction times, sharpens our senses and elevates our blood pressure, among other things. Once our body senses the danger is mitigated, these levels even out and they go back to normal. Yet, when we are exposed to chronic stressors, these can be harmful and lead to other negative health conditions.
Effects Stress has on Seniors
As we age, our stress levels can increase. When aging begins to affect our ability to do the things we love or we experience decreased energy, stress can increase. And, should medical bills start to increase, the tension can be overwhelming. All of these factors affect our stress levels and can increase the negative effects of stress in our lives.
Stress activates our “flight or fight” mode, which engages our central nervous system. When the central nervous system experiences stress, it begins to reduce blood flow to vital places such as our digestive system. This reduction in blood flow, if prolonged or chronic, can negatively affect our digestive system causing issues like irritable bowel syndrome or ulcers.
When we’re stressed, our immune system takes a toll, too. Stress suppresses our immune systems, lowering our defenses and making it easier to become sick. Aging also has an effect on our immune systems, naturally lowering their ability to fight diseases as we age. Adding stress on top of this natural suppression can make it easier for seniors to get sick and take longer for them to recover.
The surge of adrenaline we feel when we are stressed raises our blood pressure and increases our heart rate. Chronic stress is particularly bad on the aging heart, as it puts too much constant pressure on this important organ. In addition, the ways in which one may find relief from stress, through drinking or overeating, can also have negative impacts on our heart, increasing the likelihood of heart disease.
Stress impacts our ability to form short-term memories. Stress can impact memory performance, how we retrieve and interpret memories, and may play a role in the development of memory related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Although stress can increase as we age, there are ways to fight it. Learning early on how to manage stress can help you in the long run. Below are a few stress management ideas to help you cope with stress as you age:
Eating a balanced diet can combat stress by helping to keep our bodies healthy and in good working order. Nutrients found in healthy foods can increase our overall mental health, which can impact our stress levels.
Exercise is one of the greatest aids to us as we age. Not only does exercise keep our bodies healthy, it increases the flow of positive chemicals in our brains such as serotonin, keeping our bodies fit and our minds light.
Isolation and loneliness lead to stress. Finding ways to be around and engaged with others can help us to have a more positive outlook on life. Find a cause you can get behind, volunteer at a local shelter, or join a club; find whatever you can to remain social and engaged. Being around others will help decrease stress and increase happiness in your life.
Live Worry-Free at The Oaks at Denville
Continuing care retirement communities like The Oaks at Denville have programs and activities that help seniors reduce stress. Additionally, with multiple living options, all centered on maintenance-free living, you’re sure to find a home that suits your every need. You’ll find a community of wonderful people, endless amenities and activities, and everything you need to live a stress-free life at The Oaks at Denville.
Ready to learn more? Contact us today.