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asian chinese senior woman at home portrait

Most people who struggle with stress know that it can manifest in physical ways and contribute to health problems. Even so, sufferers greatly underestimate the long-term health impact of stress, especially later in life. According to the American Medical Association, as many as 80% of all chronic illnesses develop in response to stress.

In an attempt to prevent chronic disease as we age, it’s important to learn how to manage stress. Here is a breakdown of the relationship between stress and illnesses, as well as some helpful tips for seniors on how to manage their anxieties.

What Is Stress, And How Does It Impact the Body?

Every person experiences stress on a day-to-day basis. From work-related issues to busy schedules to car troubles or even financial troubles, stress is an uncomfortable part of our daily life. But as people get older, their sources of stress can increase due to reduced independence and mobility, cognitive challenges, and changes in their financial status, for example.

Stress is the body’s natural reaction to a perceived danger or source of stimulation that disturbs an individual’s inner balance. Another term for stress is “fight or flight response” which characterizes the two reactions to stressful scenarios. The earliest humans relied on fight or flight to help them survive dangerous situations. Although the many sources of stress have evolved and changed, the human body still responds in the same way. Here are some of the most common ways the body physically responds to stress:

  • Digestion problems
  • Heightened sense of alertness resulting in less sleep
  • Increased pulse and heart rate
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Lack of natural immunity to illness
  • Taking more rapid breaths

The body’s fight or flight response automatically produces more cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. These responses are often helpful in dangerous situations, but they can cause damage to the body if they persist long after the perceived danger has passed. Symptoms of chronic diseases related to stress can develop if the body fails to relax following a stressful period. Common health conditions that occur due to stress include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Headaches

These health conditions can cause more severe issues for older individuals. Although it can be difficult to control and manage stress, it’s important for people – especially seniors – to practice how to respond in healthier ways. Learning how to handle stress is a proactive way to prevent chronic health issues later down the line.

Tips for Seniors to Reduce Stress

Isolation is a common problem among seniors, and it can have serious health consequences. The issue is that older people tend to isolate themselves due to embarrassment or sensitivity about their health and age-related conditions. Unfortunately, taking this approach only makes these problems worse.

Everyone – especially seniors – needs a sense of community where they feel accepted and cared for. Older people who live in group settings like an assisted living facility can easily connect with people who share their interests, concerns, and struggles. For seniors who continue to live at home, it’s important to take extra care to participate in social groups to keep up a sense of community.

Exercise is a great way to reduce stress because it releases hormones in the brain that elevate mood and improve cognitive abilities. Some added benefits of regular exercise among older people are increased bone strength, lung capacity, and overall health. Meditation can also be a useful way for seniors to center themselves and feel less affected by the stress triggers in their lives.

If you are considering an assisted living facility – either for yourself or a loved one – Shady Oaks Assisted Living offers quality care for senior citizens. Their dedicated team would be happy to answer your questions about their care and services. To learn more about assisted living facility or schedule a tour, contact them today.