Anxiety Speeds Cellular Aging

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RN

We’ve always known that anxiety takes a toll on the human body. Anxious people are more likely to suffer from heart disease and other diseases, for example.

To date, however, we haven’t been too sure about anxiety's effects on aging.

Interestingly enough, a new study shows anxiety shortens telomeres, the end caps of DNA. The results were published online in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Anxiety is Associated With 3.5 to 8 years of Cellular Aging

Previous studies show a relationship between shorter telomeres and a shorter lifespan, making it a reliable marker for aging. Telomeres shorten in response to aging, smoking, excessive drinking, and unhealthy lifestyles.

In the study, scientists recruited 1,283 people with anxiety, 459 people with former-anxiety, and 582 people with no history of anxiety. Aging was assessed by measuring the length of telomeres found in white blood cells.

According to the results, people with current anxiety had significantly shorter telomeres than those without anxiety or those with a past history of the condition. Individuals who were overweight, underweight, smoked, or drank heavily had shorter telomeres.

By examining the length of telomeres, researchers estimate anxiety accelerates aging by 3.5 to 8 years, depending on the specific type of anxiety disorder in question. Generalized anxiety disorder is estimated to age cells by up to 8 years.

The exact link between higher anxiety levels and shorter telomeres is unknown. Stress has been shown to increase inflammation, cortisol, and oxidative stress —three factors that have been associated with shorter telomere length.

How to Treat Anxiety Naturally

One of the most promising results of the study showed that people who previously had anxiety preserved their telomere length. This shows the damaging effects of anxiety could be potentially reversed if treated. Currently, there are many treatments for anxiety available.

One that is often overlooked is the use of dietary supplements. More and more research is uncovering the potential of natural remedies in helping to manage this condition. Below is a list of supplements which have been clinically shown to decrease anxiety symptoms:

 • Theanine2
 • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil3
 • St. John’s wort4
 • Ginkgo biloba5
 • Valerian root6
 • Rhodiola7
 • Selenium8, 9

Want to learn more about natural treatments for anxiety? Click here for lots of detailed information.

References:

  1. Br J Psychiatry. 2015 Feb 5. pii: bjp.bp.114.151027. 
  2. J Clin Psychiatry. 2011 Jan;72(1):34-42. 
  3. Brain Behav Immun. 2011. Nov;25(8):1725-34. 
  4. CNS Drugs. 2010 Mar 1;24(3):207-25. 
  5. J Psychiatr Res. 2007 Sep;41(6):472-80. 
  6. Phytother Res. 2002; 16(7): 650–54. 
  7. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Mar;14(2):175-80. 
  8. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1990;102(4):549-50. 
  9. Biol Psychiatry. 1991 Jun 1;29(11):1092-8.

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