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Safe and effective responses to stress

Stress is a killer, so do everything you can to reduce it in your llfe.
There are natural ways to reduce stress, including a change in your perception of it, and maybe, a nightly cocktail, says health columnist. Photo supplied.

What is the world coming to? Recent news has artificial intelligence (AI) researchers and CEOs warning of an “extinction risk” from technology running wild. Forest fires are literally running wild too. If these things don’t get you stressed, then how about the rest of the pressures of everyday life?

Stress is, according to the World Health Organization, “a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats in our lives.” What a gentle way to put it. Scientific experiments attempting to identify the health impacts of stress suggest this natural response may be taking years from our life expectancy.

In one study, Stanford and University of California cell biologists, biochemists, and psychologists examined blood cells in the body’s immune system, comparing highly stressed individuals with a comparable unstressed group. They found the cells looked different in three ways.

First, cells of the stressed group had shorter telomeres--bits of DNA--which made participants look 10 years older than their chronological age. The stressed group also had lower levels of telomerase, an enzyme that repairs damaged telomeres, but higher levels of free radicals, a volatile molecule that can damage DNA.

Other studies have shown the negative effects of stress on the nervous system, digestive system, cardiovascular system, memory, behaviours, and so on.

Studies on longevity and stress suggest it’s less a question of whether or what kind of stress you face, it’s how you feel about it and how you respond. The comedian, George Burns, who famously lived to 100, remarked, “If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.” Humour is an excellent antidote to stress.

Other natural approaches are also recommended as a first line of defence. Having a drink at the cocktail hour qualifies. In our opinion, for some people, the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption can outweigh the risks recently making news.

Stress is a very personal thing and so is how you choose to ease it. Always remember, the best first course of action in fighting any health threat is to assess whether there is a safe, effective, natural solution.

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