And just smell the coffee
Brad King, MFS
The majority of people today unwittingly exacerbate their stress response by consuming too many caffeinated beverages-especially coffee.
Don’t you wish sometimes that you had a shut-off switch for demands on your time? How many times do you find yourself checking your email at ungodly hours? Often precious downtime is consumed by our willingness to be constantly available. To remain alert and available, do you down caffeine?
When we go, go, go without enough downtime, or we constantly worry about things–most of which (thankfully) never materialize–we create an unfavourable stress response that can rob us of our youth, biologically speaking.
When our bodies perceive stress, they release specialized hormones (adrenaline and cortisol), as well as neurotransmitters (norepinephrine and dopamine) that help us deal with the stress until it subsides. This fight-or-flight response is a necessary part of the body’s defence system, but the chemicals it produces can wear our bodies down if experienced continuously.
Stress and Aging
Until recently longevity scientists could only theorize why this occurs. Some conjectured that the majority of our cells have a finite number of times they are able to divide; every time these cells divide, they lose a small piece of DNA called a telomere. Scientists believed that the shortening of these telomeres is–to a significant degree–responsible for the aging process.
In 2004 researchers from the University of California discovered that women who experienced the highest levels of perceived stress have telomeres that are much shorter than women who experience low stress. Researchers concluded that these shortened telomeres were equivalent to at least one decade of additional aging.
Our hectic lifestyles and constant worrying are far from the only culprits when it comes to stress. The majority of people today unwittingly exacerbate their stress response by consuming too many caffeinated beverages–especially coffee.
Caffeine in coffee has been shown to elevate stress hormones–over and above the body’s natural response–for many hours after consumption. Researchers from Duke University published a study in 2002 showing that the stress hormones elevated by moderate daily caffeine consumption (500 mg of caffeine daily, about five 8-oz / 250-mL cups) caused blood pressure elevations and increases in stress reactivity that could contribute to an increased risk of coronary heart disease in the adult population.
Cortisol a Culprit
One of the biggest contributors to premature aging is the powerful stress hormone cortisol. Elevated cortisol is known to degrade muscle tissue (the metabolic engine of the body) and, according to research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, loss of lean body mass (muscle) is the main reason we prematurely age. As indicated, excess caffeine can overstimulate cortisol, possibly contributing to muscle wasting.
It would be wise to lower your consumption of coffee in order to lessen the burden on your stress response. Aside from drinking less coffee, we can also benefit from supplements (referred to as recuperatives and adaptogens) that can significantly help strengthen our bodies against the negative effects of stress. Ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea, and raw adrenal glandulars taken in combination can be particularly effective.
Taking it slow–consuming less coffee, and balancing your technology-based availability with necessary downtime may be your best bets for a longer, healthier life.
Lowering Stress with Your Real Best Friend
Have you ever had one of those days when everything seems to go wrong? The next time this happens, try petting a pooch or nuzzling a pussycat. Aside from the usual ways we try to deal with stress–meditating, exercising, or taking a hot bath–animals may provide the best stress relief possible. Researchers at the State University of New York discovered that people actually handle stressful events with greater calm when their pets are around, compared to how they feel with a friend or even their spouse. It was further concluded that pets can provide significant cardiovascular and behavioural benefits for their owners.