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Stress in Older Adults

As we age, stress begins to affect us differently and coping with stress becomes more difficult. Cells are aging, heart and lung capacity declines, especially if one is sedentary, and chronic diseases make it even harder to bounce back physically from stress and the toll it takes on the body. Stress may make it difficult to sleep well, which doesn't allow the body to clear the stress hormones from the brain; therefore, the cognitive effects of stress can worsen over time.

Stressors that tend to affect seniors may be different than younger adults. Instead of being stressed about a busy day at work or raising small children, stressors may be the loss of a loved one; a difficult relationship with grown children; the loss of physical abilities; financial costs/decisions; or boredom from a lack of stimulating activity.

While stress is a normal part of life, having too much can have negative effects on your body and health. How do you know if stress is "normal" or if it is affecting your health? The following are symptoms of stress: indigestion, tension headaches, heart palpitations, poor concentration, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, irritability, crying, or overeating. The long-term effects of high stress could include high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, insomnia, heartburn, indigestion, and an increased risk of heart disease. If you are experiencing these symptoms on a regular basis, it's time to get some help!

What can you do to reduce stress?

  • Get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, avoid excessive caffeine, and take time to relax

  • Try walking, meditation, prayer, yoga, tai chi, etc.

  • Additional treatments may include acupuncture, acupressure, biofeedback, etc.

  • Do something you enjoy, like listening to music, work on hobbies, volunteer, get involved in your community or church

  • For more serious stress cases, nutritional supplements or prescribed medications may be in order

  • Get help from a medical professional and find a strong emotional support group


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