Longevity: the impact of stress and social relations

Longevity is determined by factors endogenous as well as exogenous to the individual, such as stress and social relationships. Stress may develop into serious illnesses and make us have unhealthy habits. Social relationships affect our lifestyles and the ageing process. In which other ways can stress and social relations interfere with longevity?

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The ageing process influenced by stress

Scientific evidence shows that stress affects the ageing process. As Harvard Health Publishing explains, short-term stress response can help us deal with difficult situations. However, chronic stress can lead to physical damage, increasing blood sugar and worse diabetes. It also may promote high pressure and cause insomnia.

Plus, long-term stress can make us feel anxious, worried, depressed, and frustrated. It also can increase the risk of heart disease and heartburn, contributing to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, among other health problems.

Because of the many impacts of stress, we should learn how to control and avoid its worse symptoms including blood pressure, headaches, back pain, indigestion, or heart palpitations. People who suffer from frequent or chronic stress tend to have a poor concentration, be indecisive and experience emotional symptoms like crying, irritability, or edginess. Also, stress can influence our health by making us adopt unhealthy habits like eating poorly, exercising less, drinking more, and even relying on medication.

Job stress decreasing our health

Job stress is a factor also known for disproportionately affecting the ageing process. Individuals with that endure high job stress levels have the shortest telomeres, which have a crucial role in the decay of human cells. Telomere shortening has also been linked to Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

On the other hand, job stress may cause job burnout too, which in turn may entail, according to Mayo Clinic, fatigue, insomnia, sadness, anger, irritability, alcohol or substance misuse, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and vulnerability to illnesses.

Longevity and social relations

Apart from stress, there are other determinants of longevity. One of the most important tools to a longer ageing are social relationships, including social networks, social support and social participation.

Maintaining smaller social networks, and contacting them less frequently can impair longevity. Conversely, according to Harvard Health Publishing, those who enjoy closer links with family and friends are more likely to live longer than people who are isolated and lonely. In an attempt to better understand how much social relationships affect longevity, researchers mentioned by the magazine conducted a meta-analysis showing that people who have regular contact with friends, family, and neighbors have a survival advantage comparable in magnitude with quitting smoking habits and about twice as large as exercising regularly or maintaining a normal weight.

In short, Harvard research suggests that meaningful relationships are a prescription for better emotional, mental, and physical health. Good relationships appear to protect our brains when in our 80s, sharpening memory for a longer time.

 

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The importance of Vitamin D for your health

During the winter months it is important to keep up with the vitamin intake to stay healthy.

Vitamin D is a very important one we get from sunshine exposure or food.

As Harvard Health says:

Results suggest that vitamin D may have an important role in many aspects of human health, from bone fractures to prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, neuromuscular problems, and diabetes.

Vitamin D’s best-known role is to keep bones healthy by increasing the intestinal absorption of calcium. Low levels of vitamin D lead to low bone calcium stores, increasing the risk of fractures. 

According to the publication, intestines, prostate, heart, blood vessels, muscles and endocrine glands have tissues containing vitamin D receptors. The body needs to have enough vitamin D so that these receptors can do any good for your health.

The amount of vitamin D our body needs is small, but most people don’t get it in the winter. Limited exposure to sunlight is the main factor. Some foods that can help with the vitamin D intake are: fatty fish like salmon or tuna, and egg yolks.

In countries like Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands, or the UK it can be hard to receive the necessary vitamin D intake during the winter.  When recovering from a medical procedure or a surgery it’s important to get all the necessary vitamins for a quick recovery, especially for seniors, for people recovering from and orthopedic surgery or doing physiotherapy.

Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon sunlight is unique.

Since the exposure to sunlight is key to receive vitamin D, Portugal is a great option to get it. With an average of 3300 of sunshine hours per year, the country enjoys mild winters compared to most European countries. Despite December and January are the wettest months, there are still several sunny days during the winter. And the temperatures are usually welcoming for a daily walk outside. Read more about Portugal during the winter here.