older man and woman exercisingStress is our body’s reaction to life experiences, which can manifest as physical, mental or emotional tension. During the current pandemic, nearly 80 percent of adults say COVID-19 is a “significant source of stress”, per the American Psychological Association.

Stress among seniors can be particularly overwhelming and contribute to the development of chronic diseases. Here are a few ways stress can affect senior health.

Stress on the Brain

As we age, memory and brain function can be negatively affected. In fact, the brain shrinks in volume at an average rate of 5 percent per decade after turning 40.

Stress can also speed up these effects. When you experience anxious feelings, it can become more difficult to create short-term memories or regulate mood. Brain inflammation caused by stress may raise risk of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

To relieve stress, seniors can engage in low-impact exercise. Activities like swimming, aerobics and yoga can help relieve both the body and mind of stress. Even a short daily walk can help manage tension and anxiety!

Stress on the Immune System

Much like cognitive function, the immune system can weaken with age. When we’re stressed, the immune system can lose its strength and ability to fight off antigens.

An antigen is a chemical, bacteria, virus, pollen or other element that does not belong in your body. As such, seniors are more likely to have compromised immunity.

Stress can weaken your overall immune health, leaving you more susceptible to illnesses such as pneumonia, meningitis or bronchitis. Especially with the current pandemic, a senior contracting Coronavirus could be another major stressor.

Incorporating a hobby into your daily routine can help manage stress. Try painting, knitting, crocheting, gardening, puzzles or another activity to relax the mind.

Stress on the Cardiovascular System

Taking care of your heart is crucial for overall health at any age but especially for the elderly. Feeling stressed can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to rise which, if consistent, could weaken the heart muscles and eventually lead to heart failure.

Try deep breathing to supply the brain with oxygen and activate the parasympathetic nervous system to reach a state of calmness.

Poor cardiovascular health can make you vulnerable to experiencing a stroke, coronary disease or heart attack. Having a creative outlet can also provide a great escape from a stressful situation. When you feel anxious, read a book or try journaling about your feelings.
At Avon Health Center, we help our residents live the best quality of life possible. With that assurance comes resources to manage stress and overall health. To learn more about how we can help your loved one, contact us today.