April 20th, 2018

To Your Health: Worst effects of stress could still be waiting for you

By Gillian Slade on March 20, 2017.

Are you feeling sleep deprived after the clocks skipped an hour last weekend?

Just one hour can make a difference. It is ironic though that in our youth, when it feels as though we could sleep 12 hours a day, we have so many activities we don’t have the time. Later in life when we have the time we struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Stressful events in life such going through a serious illness or getting divorced may trigger changes in your brain that will manifest later in life, researchers have said.

About 800 women in Sweden were tracked for more than 40 years, between 1914 and 1930, undergoing neuropsychiatric tests and exams every 10 years, according to the British Medical Journal.

Initially the participants were quizzed about the impact on them of 18 different events such as divorce, the death of a spouse, serious illness or death of a child, mental health issues, alcoholism, loss of employment, and how well they were managing financially.

The participants used words such as irritability, lack of sleep, fear to express their responses.

By 1968 one in four of the women had been through at least one stressful event or two. One in five of them had coped with three such events and 16 per cent had had four or more events.

By 2006 nearly 20 per cent of participants were experiencing dementia and some had developed Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers found those with more stress when they were between 35 and 54 years old were 21 per cent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and 15 per cent had an increased risk of dementia in general.

A different research study found people who employ stress management techniques into their lives over a five year period developed younger-looking chromosomes.

A small group of men diagnosed with prostate cancer were selected to adopt a “lifestyle change intervention” that included a plant based diet of whole foods, moderate exercise and stress management techniques.

Scientists found the participants had changes to their telomeres – the structures at the ends of chromosomes – preventing damage to the DNA within.

If the results are validated in a larger study it may show lifestyle changes can reduce a wide range of diseases and that our genes and our telomeres are a predisposition but not necessarily our fate.

Here’s to stress management techniques to keep you healthier and Here’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her by email on call 403-528-8635.

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