Is Stress Making You Look Older?

Over the years that I have been helping women and men address the effects of aging as a board certified plastic surgeon, I have always believed that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one of the most effective ways to keep the body looking young and vital and minimize the need for extensive cosmetic surgery procedures.  While it is clear that diet and exercise play vital roles, it has also been my experience that prolonged periods of stress can do a great deal to exacerbate the effects of aging on the face and body.

Is Stress Making You Look OlderStress can actually at times be a positive force, keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger, and the body is designed to deal with it in small doses.  However, stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without any period of relief or relaxation.  This prolonged, negative stress can lead to a number of physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and problems sleeping.  In fact, studies have concluded that as many as forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.  Moreover, recent research suggests that stressful events are linked to how quickly cells age.  At the ends of the chromosomes that are buried in the nucleus of every cell are tiny telomeres.  Composed of DNA and protein, these telomeres are like the plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces; they protect the ends of chromosomes and keep them from unraveling.  As we age, telomeres become shorter and their structural integrity weakens, causing cells to age and die faster.  This contributes to the loss of skin elasticity and facial volume and results in the facial wrinkling and sagging that ultimately requires cosmetic facial rejuvenation procedures.  Prolonged emotional and physical stress seems to cause these telomeres to shorten more quickly, effectively accelerating the aging process.  Fortunately, the same study also noted that those who maintained active lifestyles, ate right, and slept well appeared to shrug off the effects of stress, with their telomeres showing no significant additional shortening.

This means that there is a clear and demonstrable connection between aging, stress, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Although life seldom allows us the opportunity to avoid stressful situations, and hectic schedules often leave little time for a regular exercise regimen, there are a number of foods that can help reduce the effects that stress can have on the body.  Complex carbohydrates, like whole-grain breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals, and even old-fashioned oatmeal, prompt the brain to make more serotonin, a chemical that calms the brain and elevates the mood.  Foods rich in vitamin C, like oranges, can curb levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system, as can Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna.  Finally, potassium rich foods, like bananas and avocados, are one of the best ways to reduce high blood pressure and minimize one of the most dangerous effects of prolonged stress.  I don’t think that it is an accident that many of these foods are on the list of foods I would recommend to patients recovering from surgery, as relaxation and the elimination of stress have long been known to have a beneficial effect on the healing process.

If you are interested in a cosmetic or reconstructive procedure I perform, please contact my office to schedule a consultation today. Additionally, Atlanta Plastic Surgery, P.C. provides a variety of options for financing, including Care CreditSM, to assist you.  Don’t forget to connect with me, Dr. Allyson Maske, on FacebookTwitter, and Google+ for the latest plastic surgery news and updates.