Second Quarter 2009, Volume 23, Number 1

Don’t stress the small stuff, it can lead to premature aging

IN THIS ISSUE

Don’t stress the small stuff, it can lead to premature aging

Scar management: What types of scars respond best to varying treatments

Ask the Surgeon / Health Tip / What’s New

How plump do you want them?

Stress has negative effects on our physical and mental well-being. The physical changes influence your appearance and cause premature wrinkling. Learn how stress affects you and what you can do to minimize its impact.

Stress aggravates many parts of the body, including the skin. Our body’s reaction to stress is the “fight or flight” response. In order to prepare for action, the body produces higher levels of cortisol and adrenaline. The body does not distinguish between physical or emotional stress; blood pressure goes up and the body is put on high alert. When stress remains constant or becomes chronic, this causes the most damage. Do you remember waking up with a pimple on your big day—wedding day, job interview, major presentation—wondering why of all days? Your body has been reacting to the stress by producing higher levels of cortisol, which has caused changes in the skin allowing acne to flare up.

Science has proven that chronic stress leads to premature aging. Studies have looked at the DNA and chromosomes of people who experienced high levels of chronic stress. If DNA is like a strand of string, each strand has a protective tip called a telomere. These thin as we age and lose their protective telomeres. Participants with chronic stress had DNA that appeared much older than their actual age. This biological evidence seems to prove that stress contributes to premature aging.

As we age, the skin loses elasticity and becomes thinner. The skin begins to break down and wrinkles appear. The wrinkle eventually becomes a crease and the crease a furrow. An example of this is crow’s feet.

You can learn to limit the affects of stress on your facial features. Start with your attitude; stay positive and be flexible. Studies have shown that people who are “go with the flow” and known as resilient, can manage stress better and seem to age better too. As the saying goes, it is not what happens to you, but how you deal with what happens to you that is important. Another tip is to become more aware of when you are furrowing or squinting. What is contributing to this? It may be due to worry, sunlight, poor vision, intense concentration, etc. If you are aware of when you are tensing these muscles, then you can learn to temper and adapt new habits, instead of contributing to premature wrinkling.

There are also medical treatments that can reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Botox®, for example, helps reduce unwanted muscle contractions that lead to wrinkles and creases in the forehead and around the eyelids. To know more about the techniques—surgical or non-surgical— to help reduce the signs of stress and aging, make an appointment with your facial plastic surgeon. You will be more relaxed knowing you did.