How different types of stress affect telomere length and aging | Elissa Epel

How different types of stress affect telomere length and aging | Elissa Epel

– [Rhonda]: Getting to the psychological stress
part, you have looked a lot at various types of psychological stressors. And those seem to be, as you mentioned, biomarked
by have shorter telomere. But you’ve also looked at a variety of other
types of stress, which seems to be positive, more healthy. And that seems to sort of buffer some of those
negative effects to some degree. Maybe talk a little bit about that. – [Elissa]: So just to be really simplistic,
when we think about stress, I know it has a bad rap, but that’s because it’s toxic stress
that is causing dysregulated health and depression. And that means something really big, not necessarily
what we’re all suffering from that neurotic feeling of stress and time pressure. But rather, having traumatic things happen
to you, particularly as a child, sets you up to feel threat responses much more in your
brain and your body. So there’s that kind of programming that happens
in childhood. And then there’s like the chronic stressors
that we have as adults which are things like caregiving, or job stress, or domestic violence
in relationships, so things that go on for years and years. So those are the types of things when we do
see telomere shortening and inflammation. And all the rest like work stress is not related
to telomere shortness. – [Rhonda]: Really? – [Elissa]: Burnout is when you’re really…
you know, it’s gone on long enough that you’ve gotten this kind of profile of demoralization
from it. But not that typical adrenaline type stress
that we deal with a lot. I mean, it’s not good for us, but I’m just
saying that’s not gonna show up as much or more consistently, you know, what [crosstalk
00:25:47]. – [Rhonda]: What about rumination when you’re
like constantly thinking about something that’s maybe… – [Elissa]: So I would say that rumination
is part of chronic stress. That is when things happen and we carry it
with us, moment to moment, day to day, where can we keep ourselves in a stress state. So that’s one of our targets in our interventions. We really like to look at rumination, that’s
why meditation is so interesting because it really targets… you know, you can’t be present
and be ruminating at the same time. – [Rhonda]: Right. So you think that… because you know, oftentimes,
you know, with something high stress, if I’m working on a project, definitely work-related,
I do tend to ruminate. But I mean, it’s not like, I’m ruminating
on it for a year, so that…do you think there is a difference between that sort of short
term rumination where you’re distracted by whatever projects you have to go and you’re
not present as much, versus like a very traumatic type of stress that’s like, you know, the
financial stress or something? – [Elissa]: I think that it’s easy for us
to study the big events and the chronic events to see that showing up in our data on accelerated
aging. What you’re talking about is much harder to
measure and study but I absolutely do think it matters. And we are looking at daily stress in our
current studies and seeing that people who have this profile of more elevated…we call
it perseverative cognition or perseverative thought processes, they have accelerated biomarkers
of aging, telomere length, and inflammation. So what is that? – [Rhonda]: What is that type of… – [Elissa]: So you wake up and you’re already
worrying about the day, feeling like you can’t control it, feeling anxious, so there’s a
wake-up response. Because what is waking up? It’s should be a clean slate but it’s not
because we have these different tendencies to maybe jump ahead already in the future,
right? So worrying, planning, anticipating, we find
that our caregivers do that a lot more. They wake up, they’re already in a stress
state. Their cortisol is higher. – [Rhonda]: That’s what I was gonna ask. Are there any other type of markers? – [Elissa]: Whereas some caregivers wake up
and they feel positive, they’re looking forward to the day. They feel joy. They look better in their telomerase enzyme,
in their cortisol. So waking up states are really important to
notice. – Rhonda]: So like a pessimistic view versus
optimistic view is that [crosstalk 00:28:06]. – [Elissa]: So that’s absolutely related and
that’s kind of the bigger you know, personality thing you take with you and you see the world
in that way. So if you’re high in pessimism you just expect
bad things to happen. Pessimism is related shorter telomeres, we
have that scale on our website because I think it’s so important for people to like know
their style. You can’t necessarily change your style but
if you know it, you can be aware of it, you can laugh at it. It’s just going to diffuse its power more. Like, you know, that’s my pessimistic thought,
that’s how I work. – [Rhonda]: I actually find that a good workout,
a very good like, you know, if I do a really hard intense run, or a sprint, or a high intensity
bicycling spin class or something that if I’m anxious, or I have a, you know, like a
sort of a pessimistic view of something, absolutely it helps alleviate that. – [Elissa]: Yes, absolutely. Your N of 1 is also been shown up in, you
know, studies of exercise and studies by Eli Puterman showing that exercise actually does
reduce ruminative processes.

1 Reply to “How different types of stress affect telomere length and aging | Elissa Epel”

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