Will stress and anxiety leave a permanent mark on us?

Feeling stressed and anxious? You are not alone. During the last year, stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 57% of all "sick leave" in the UK. Although we may think that the effects of stress are short-lived, the latest research points out that "lifelong scars" may not be just a metaphor. In fact, we may leave permanent epigenetic marks on our DNA.

What is epigenetics? In our lifetime, some specific genes may turn on or off on their own, making us more susceptible to serious diseases, weight gain, etc. In this relatively new field of research, researchers have discovered that our diet, exercise frequency, stress, and environment all affect how we read genes. In some cases, epigenetic changes can be reversed, but recent studies have found that extreme stress and anxiety can actually have a lasting impact, which is more likely to be passed on to our offspring. This is the so-called separation. Genetics.

An experiment conducted by researchers from the American Academy of Brain Research found that if young mice were taken from mother mice earlier, the major trauma that humans had suffered during childhood was reproduced, which would aggravate their fear and anxiety in adulthood. In addition, this also changes the methylation pattern of DNA that responds to stress. The researchers found that it was particularly interesting that although their offspring were never separated from the mother mouse, these characteristics were passed on to the next two generations. Although there is still a debate about the genetic inheritance of human beings, this explanation can be used to help us better understand the lasting impact on Holocaust survivors and their offspring. Rachel Yehuda, who specializes in epigenetics and the impact of trauma across generations, believes that the offspring of Holocaust survivors have higher chronic stress levels than their peers, which may make them susceptible to anxiety and other health risks.

Yehuda and her team found that survivors will face various complications throughout their lives, including lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that helps the body return to normal after trauma. The levels of enzymes that break down cortisol are also Lower. In addition, they also found that the children of survivors had low cortisol levels but higher levels of decomposing enzymes. With this in mind, Yehuda can draw a conclusion that if the survivor is pregnant and the enzyme content in the placenta is low, then a large amount of cortisol may enter the fetus, which will increase the enzyme content in the fetus and protect itself. Therefore, it is believed that the children of Holocaust survivors are more sensitive to stress.

In our daily lives, we have been facing different pressures, whether it is work, money, pursuit of success, lack of sleep, these will accumulate stress and cause acute "fight or flight response." Chronic stress can be embedded in our body in many different ways, causing immediate and long-term psychological, physical and emotional stress.

In the past year, 74% of people felt stressed, overwhelmed, and unable to cope. As a result, 46% of people reported that they overeated or had unhealthy menus, 29% said they started drinking or even too much alcohol, and 16% started smoking or increased their number of cigarettes, which further aggravated stress and anxiety. Excessive pressure causes more than 300 billion U.S. dollars in losses to the U.S. economy every year.

Although delicious food, smoking and drinking can bring short-term comfort, the long-term effects are more serious. Professor Subhash C. Pandey, director of the Alcohol Research Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said: “Adolescent binge drinking may disrupt the epigenetic programming of key brain regions by changing certain key molecular targets in the epigenome.” Ultimately, this may lead to Changes in gene function-affecting genes that cannot be regenerated-make people susceptible to "adult mental illness."

But the good news is that not many of us are pressured to the point where we can’t turn our heads back. There is still hope. The daily stress described here usually leads to "acute reactions", most of which are temporary and reversible. Dr. Tom Stubbs, Chief Executive Officer of Chronomics, said: "Examining our basic lifestyle choices and habits can greatly improve our mental health." "It sounds simple, but many of us don't give ourselves enough time to relax, which can cause stress. , Leading to bad habits, such as excessive caffeine, drinking, lack of exercise, insufficient sleep, and unhealthy or irregular eating, all of which may affect the epigenetic regulation of our health."

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