Dance your pants off to reduce stress!

April is National Stress Awareness Month and it’s important to realize how much stress can affect us.

Nikki Sommer, a nurse with Key West Surgical Group, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM for Medical Matters this morning.

Stress can actually increase your biological age.

Sommer said, “It’s what your lifestyle is. So if you have chronic stress, studies have been done that you can actually increase your biological age, but if you remove it, you can go back to where you’re supposed to be.”

Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM noted, “So it is true then that some people tend to over time look older, act older, feel older and that can be due to stress.”

“Yes,” Sommer confirmed. “There’s a reason.”

So if a 28-year-old is eating fatty foods, doesn’t exercise, smokes and doesn’t sleep well, they can actually have a biological age older than other 28-year-olds.

If the stressors are resolved, the effects can be reversed.

Chronic stress is when the body stays at high alert status even after the stress is gone.

Sommer said, “Stress can affect you on the cellular level. The positive thing about it, if you can remove that stress, you can reverse those signs of biological aging.”

Finding ways to cope is the best bet.

Sommer said, “You can never eliminate stress. There’s always going to be stressors in your life, whether it’s short term or long term, but learning how to cope with them is what keeps your body at an equilibrium so your body’s not always in that fight or flight response reaction.”

Methylation is when a molecule in the body is released by stress and attaches to DNA and stops the gene from working.

Sommer said, “So it can increase the risk of other diseases and cancer because your body is not handling the stress.”

So there really is a biological link to stress for a number of diseases.

Stress management is also important with chronic health conditions.

Sommer said, “It’s not just with surgery. It will affect your healing and how your body’s going to respond to the treatment.”

The Centers for Disease Control has said just 10 minutes of activity every day can help reduce stress.

Sommer reminded, “You don’t need to be a triathlete or say I’m going to go run 60 minutes or walk two miles. It’s 10 minutes. Give yourself 10 minutes to chill.”

So exercise, meditate, and breathe deep.

Sommer said, “Practice gratefulness. If you do sit down and write three to five things that you’re grateful for, it can reset your mind.”

Stapleford added, “It makes perfect sense. It gets back to the glass is half full or half empty. When you look at the things that are positive, they can tend to balance everything out.”

Listening to music or “dancing your pants off” as Sommer calls it, can also help.

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