Ask Dr. Joy: Effects of depression and chronic stress

By WEEK Producer

May 2, 2012 Updated May 2, 2012 at 5:27 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Can the state of your mental health add years to your life?

There is some new research out that looks into how depression might not just effect the mind - but a person's whole body. We know that depression effects our mental health and wellbeing, but new research show the trauma on the rest of our body.

First - let's look at the mental health symptoms than are synonymous with depression such as:
* being lethargic
* having a decreased desire for activities
* hopelessness - sad mood
* decreased energy - fatigue
* difficulty with sleeping, eating and concentration

New research shows that those who are affected by depression or chronic stress, such as PTSD, see more serious illness in later age.

Research shows that depression effects us at a cellular level and effects our physical well-being as we age.

Some of the common "early aging" physical conditions that are being associated with depression or chronic stress are:
* Heart disease
* Stroke
* Dementia
* Diabetes
* Osteoporosis

Research from UCSF and correlated studies in Sweden indicate that aging focuses on cells. It appears that the ends of our chromosomes shrink as we get older, but that depression and chronic stress can have the same effect in shortening our protective layer called TELOMERE and cause "accelerated aging"

Breakdown in protection causes rise in cortisol levels and breaks down our immune system

What you can do to protect ourselves?
* Reach out to a counselor
* Motivate yourself
* Practice
* Become an optimist

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