Moderate dose of this stress promotes longevity

Moderate dose of this stress promotes longevity by Dr. Joseph Mercola for Mercola

Stress is a response in the body that enables us to run, take down prey or run from predators, also known as the flight-or-fight response. Unfortunately, many of the same life-saving reactions your body uses to protect you from danger may also be triggered as a response to cope with the rising prices of gasoline, a fear of public speaking or dealing with difficult bosses.

In other words, the body sometimes has a difficult time turning stress off. The good news is there are several strategies you might consider to relieve the response and reduce the negative health effects if you are dealing with a lot of psychological or physical stress. However, while TV commercials and other advertising may insinuate that we should all be living in a perfect world, in truth, a world without stress may kill you.

According to Psychology Today,1 stress is the perceived disconnection between what is happening and your resources to deal with the situation. This means stress could be a real or imagined threat since the operative word is perceived.

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Psychologists say too much is toxic but a little is needed for mental and physical resiliency.2 For instance, without societal stress to do well in school, students may not study or show up for class. However, major stressors may be debilitating, such as caring for someone with a chronic or debilitating disease or losing your job.

Researchers have also found mild physical stress may help improve development. A team from Johns Hopkins University3 followed 137 pregnant women and followed up with their 2-year-old children. They found a mild amount of anxiety and stress during pregnancy was associated with more advanced physical development in their children.

The researchers found prenatal maternal stress did not impact the child’s temperament, attention or their ability to control behavior.4 As with most biological processes, there is a balance, as too much has a negative impact and too little may not offer enough challenge to bodily systems.

Chromatin key to stress response and longevity

Recent research from the Stowers Institute for Medical Research found that chromatin stress triggers a cellular response that may lead to a longer life. In order for an organism to survive they must be able to adapt to changing conditions. The cellular response dedicated to this affects how the genome is structured.5

Inside cells that contain a nucleus, DNA is packaged with histone proteins to create a structure known as nucleosomes, which are further condensed into chromatin.6 The overall packaging determines the expression of your genetic code. This expression is impacted by environmental stress.7

Everything involved in reading your DNA must deal with the chromatin structure, according to scientists from the Baylor College of Medicine.8 Corresponding author Weiwei Dang9 explained that when a particular gene is expressed, enzymes will interact with the chromatin to negotiate access in order to translate the information into specific proteins.

With chromatin stress, the disruption may also lead to unwanted changes in genetic expression. During this study, the team worked with yeast to determine how histone genes would affect longevity.10 The team deleted histone H3-H4 minor locus HHT1-HHF1,11 unexpectedly finding that with this reduced number of genes, the yeast replicated longer.

The response to chromatin disruption in the yeast changed the activation to genes that eventually promoted longevity of the yeast cells. This stress occurred in other organisms as well, including a laboratory worm and fruit fly as well as mouse embryonic stem cells, all promoting longevity.12

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