Stress can be an interesting phenomenon. In many ways, experiencing it throughout our day-to-day lives can be a good thing – pushing us to become more adaptable, and helping us to become more resilient.
As we get older though, and regardless of the reason behind its emergence, coping with stress can begin to feel more difficult than it once had. That’s why it’s important to have some good coping mechanisms in place for dealing with any stress that may come along.
On top of this, as we get older – and especially as we pass 60 – stress can begin to have different effects on the body. But what exactly are these, and what impacts can they have on your overall health?
Below I’ve outlined six of the most common ways in which stress can affect your body more after 60, to give you an idea of some signs to look out for.
A common way in which stress can affect you more after you turn 60 is by disrupting your sleep pattern. Experiencing emotional stress can be particularly problematic, as a high production of stress-related hormones can make it difficult for your brain to switch off at night.
This can in turn lead to further knock-on effects. A good night’s sleep is one of the most effective ways to tackle stress, as it helps to flush out unwanted stress hormones. Therefore, not being able to get enough snooze time can lead to even more stress.
If you find that you’re having difficulties sleeping, then it’s important to find mechanisms for easing your stress levels. One great method for this is regular exercise. Something as simple as going for a long walk can help to release these unwanted hormones.
Suppressing the Immune System
Regardless of age, stress can decrease the overall effectiveness of the immune system. Simply put, this means that when stress levels are high, you’re a lot more vulnerable to becoming ill.
As we get older, our immune system naturally becomes weaker and less efficient. Therefore, a combination of a naturally-weaker immune system and high stress levels, makes people over 60 particularly susceptible to falling ill.
High stress levels in those within this age group can also extend sickness recovery times, as well as increase susceptibility to falling ill in the future.
As you begin to feel stressed and anxious, the body will increase its production of adrenaline, in turn raising your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. For those over 60, this can significantly increase the risk of experiencing a heart complication or even suffering from something like a sudden heart attack.
Because of this – and especially for those already suffering from a heart condition or who are undergoing a form of cardiovascular treatment – it’s really important to try and keep your stress levels to a minimum.
A good way to bring down your stress levels, and help to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, is through relaxation techniques. This can be something simple, like deep breathing, reading a good book, or listening to music. If you’re up for more, try activities such as yoga or meditation as these can be great ways to lower your stress.
Recent research has suggested that high stress levels can play a role in the development of Type 2 diabetes. It’s been contented that a significant presence of stress hormones may prevent the cells in the pancreas – responsible for the production of insulin – from functioning properly. This in turn can lead to the development of Type 2 diabetes.
It’s also common to overeat during times of significant stress. Turning to comfort foods that are high in fat and sugar may help to ease stress in the short term, but this can have the knock-on effect of weight gain and potentially the development of diabetes.
This doesn’t mean having to cut these foods out entirely, but try to ensure that you maintain a healthy diet overall to keep your fat, salt, and sugar intake levels low.
Feeling “sick to the stomach” is a common way in which stress can affect your body. As we get older though, blood flow and areas around the stomach become more delicate, meaning that this reaction to stress can be potentially more problematic.
High stress levels can lead to more complicated gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, or heartburn. However, it’s worth noting that while high levels of stress cannot cause stomach ulcers, they can worsen them.
If you’re feeling unwell for prolonged periods, it may be worth visiting your doctor. They will be able to provide more specific advice for your individual situation. Following this, I’d recommend going for regular check-ups at least once a year to help prevent the presence of any future illness.
Development of Dementia
A few studies have been carried out looking at the links between high stress levels and the development of dementia. Certain types of dementia – Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia in particular – have been found to have been accelerated by the presence of stress.
However, research into this correlation is still in its early stages. It’s difficult to determine the exact role that stress has on the development of dementia, especially as there are a number of other factors that can play a role here.
With that being said, it’s still important to take steps to try and reduce any stress you may have, as this will significantly benefit your overall health in the long run.
Tips for Reducing Stress
As I mentioned previously, there are a number of easy and effective ways to bring down your stress levels. Below I’ve laid out some recommendations that you can try.
This doesn’t have to mean strenuous aerobic work. Simply going for a walk can really help to release built-up stress hormones.
Try activities such as meditation or yoga to bring down your heart rate and help your mind to escape from the issues that are making you feel stressed.
Write Down Your Worries
Writing down the things that are causing you stress and talking them through with a loved one can really help to ease anxiety.
While consuming snacky foods and alcohol might help in the short term, it will only make things worse in the long run. Maintaining a balanced diet can really help to create a healthy body and a healthy mind.
Relax to Music
Listening to music can be a simple yet great way to help your mind escape from the issue that is causing stress.
How often do you feel stress eating at you? What is causing it? Have you found any particular method for coping with stress? Please share with our community and let’s support each other!