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Why You Age: Can You Blame Anxiety?

Why Anxiety Is Ageing You
hands of a woman in stress ...
hands of a woman in stress ...

According to researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, high levels of anxiety are linked to premature ageing in middle-aged women. In their study, ladies who experienced “phobic anxiety” – intense, irrational fears of places or things – had shorter telomeres (the “end caps” of DNA strands that protect your body’s chromosomes from deterioration in a way similar to the plastic tips at the ends of a shoelace) than women without phobias. Incredibly, the biological and cellular effects were equivalent to about six years of extra ageing.

Need more reasons to unwind your brain? A study published in the January 2013 issue of the medical journal "Menopause" showed that even low levels of anxiousness are (ironically!) cause for concern as you get older: The research indicated that teeny, tiny bits of anxiety before you hit menopause make you a sitting target for increased rates during and after the Big M, making the transition more challenging.

The key to cutting anxiety may be to turn off what scientists are calling “ruminative thinking” – in other words, the constant replaying of worries in your head. Back in 2011, a breakthrough report published in Behaviour Research and Therapy found a link between a person’s tendency to chew over their worries and their likelihood of being diagnosed with both anxiety and depressive disorders.

Experts recommend mental imagery to stop the ruminative cycle. Whenever a fear or worry gets jammed in your thoughts, visualize it physically disappearing before your eyes. For example, imagine your bothersome thought written out on a piece of paper (“I’m dreading the meeting with my boss tomorrow”), then picture it being tossed into a garbage can and replaced with an encouraging statement (“I’m the best at my job”). Then, move on.

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