Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer
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Following a healthy lifestyle is all well and good but if you are not responding well to your stress response your lifespan will be greatly impacted. In fact, being under heavy stress shortens their life expectancy by 2.8 years. These results are based on a study in which researchers from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare calculated the effects of multiple risk factors, including lifestyle-related ones, to the life expectancy of men and women.
Our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses, however, when that stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on one’s body.
Chronic stress, or a constant stress experienced over a prolonged period of time, can contribute to long-term problems for heart and blood vessels.
The consistent and ongoing increase in heart rate, and the elevated levels of stress hormones and of blood pressure, can take a toll on the body and on longevity.
This long-term ongoing stress can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke.
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Repeated acute stress and persistent chronic stress may also contribute to inflammation in the circulatory system, particularly in the coronary arteries, and this is one pathway that is thought to tie stress to heart attack.
It also appears that how a person responds to stress can affect cholesterol levels.
The risk for heart disease associated with stress appears to differ for women, depending on whether the woman is premenopausal or postmenopausal.
Postmenopausal women lose this level of protection due to loss of oestrogen, therefore putting them at greater risk for the effects of stress on heart disease.
Stressed out fruit flies could be dying sooner due to their social lives being affected by their biology a new study has revealed.
The study interestingly found that fruit flies lived shorter and unhealthier lives when they have more stressful social contact.
This was evident when the males were grouped together or when the females were grouped with males.
Scientists led by the University of Leeds believe the answer could lie in the collection of microorganisms living within the fly’s body.
Known as the microbiome, it affects a range of traits including development, metabolism, immune responses and longevity.
The researchers found that flies who experienced stressful social environments had the biggest change in the microbiome – suggesting a biological link between social stress, immunity and longevity.
Co-lead study author Laurin McDowall, research fellow in the University of Leeds’s School of Biology, said: “It’s interesting that different social manipulations have different effects. This might reflect which types of interactions are stressful or beneficial to the flies.”
Social stress is known to impact immune responses in both fruit flies and humans.
As the microbiome is already known to have important effects on host ageing, these new findings may provide a link between stressful environments and health.
Tom Leech co-led the research while a PhD student in Leeds’s School of Biology said of the discovery: “We observed that the same social manipulation that alter lifespan also alter the microbiome, indicating a link between the two.”
Senior author Dr Amanda Bretman, Associate Professor in Behavioural Ecology in Leeds’ School of Biology, added: “Social environments have been shown to alter human health and wellbeing, and their microbiome.
“Although our study does not have immediate applications to humans, we hope in the future we can use flies as a model to understand the molecular mechanisms that link social environments, the microbiome and health.”
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