It's more than just cortisol levels—a new study links lower levels of the hormone klotho to reduced longevity among women

By Charlotte Hilton Andersen
June 18, 2015
Corbis Images

It doesn't take a doctor's visit to know that all that stress in your life probably isn't good for you. But did you know that it might actually be killing you? Chronic stress has previously been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and mental illness. It doesn't stop there, according to new research-chronic stress might be shortening your lifespan separate from your disease risk.

Scientists from the University of California, San Francisco, have discovered a link between constant anxiety and lower levels of klotho, a hormone that regulates aging and lifespan. Klotho has been found to help strengthen arteries, protect against cognitive decline, and improve bone density-all things that can help people live well into old age. It was previously thought that the hormone declined naturally as part of the aging process, but this research suggests that constant stress may actually cause it decline prematurely.

The study looked at women who were chronically stressed out from being caregivers to children with autism. Compared with women who experience normal levels of worry and who also had normal levels of klotho, the caregivers' hormone levels were as low as someone decades older. While this was just an observational study, the researchers believe persistent mental pressure may literally be aging women prematurely.

But before you stress out about stressing out (seriously, that's the last thing we want you to do!), consider this the ultimate incentive to lower your stress levels. Stop sweating the small stuff with these 15 Easy Ways to Beat Everyday Anxiety. The key, though, according to the study authors, is not just reducing daily pressures, but finding healthy ways to deal with the ones we still have. For how to handle the bigger issues, we've got 8 of Life's Biggest Shake-Ups, Solved.

There is no such thing as a stress-free life, but learning how to manage stress will not only help you live longer but actually enjoy those extra years even more.


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