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Worry More, Live Longer

Next time the anxiety induced by another gloomy bank balance or the threat of yet more redundancies in your office convinces you that the recession should come with a government health warning, think again.

Dr Marios Kyriazis, a GP and expert in geriatric medicine, is among a growing number of health professionals claiming that stress isn’t the one-way road to illness and an early grave that most of us assume. In fact, provided it’s relatively short-term, it appears that stress can do wonders for the immune system and ageing process, not to mention keeping the likes of Alzheimer’s, arthritis and certain cancers at bay.

"We tend to blame stress for everything from exhaustion to bad moods to heart disease, but it’s all a myth. Far from being bad for you, stress is vital for survival. I advise people to seek out stress because it can make you live longer. I actually think the recession – even if it means losing your job – will, for many people, be good for their health. It’s people who have routine, uncomplicated, unchallenging lives that tend to be harder hit by ill-health," explains Kyriazis, who is president of the British Longevity Society and author of the book Anti-Ageing Medicines (Watkins).

It’s the degree of stress that is crucial. "There’s a lot of research and it all points to mild and moderate stress working in the body’s favour by increasing the production of regenerative proteins that nourish brain cells, enabling them to function at peak capacity. These cells reinforce the neural connections and physical repair pathways that usually deteriorate with age," he says.

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April 18, 2009