The idea of ’aging’ overnight after a traumatic event sounds like a figure of speech – it was famously expressed in relation to Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France.
Her hair reportedly turned white the night before she was killed by the guillotine during the French Revolution at the age of 38.
Yet research has now shown that overnight whitening and other forms of rapid aging are a biological fact.
A US study found that new moms who slept less than seven hours a night in their baby’s first six months were biologically three to seven years older than those who got seven or more hours of rest, as were That was reported last month in the journal Sleep Health. .
Research has now shown that overnight whitening and other forms of rapid aging are a biological fact.
Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, looked at 33 new moms aged 23 to 45, measuring the length of their telomeres. These are DNA structures found at the end of chromosomes that are seen as a marker for biological aging (more on this later).
It is not known whether these effects are long-lasting in women, but this latest finding adds to a body of research showing that aging can be accelerated, sometimes dramatically.
Certain factors behind aging (essentially, gradual damage to cells) are familiar culprits—smoking, excessive drinking, being overweight and inactive—that account for about 9.2 percent of aging. Adverse life events, such as unemployment, the loss of a child or the diagnosis of an incurable disease, accounted for 9 percent of the population, according to a study of 2,339 adults aged 50 and older by Yale University in the US published in 2019.
Researchers determined biological age — a reflection of what’s happening at a cellular level — by measuring a range of markers in the blood, including white blood cells, which are part of the immune system. Normally, immune function declines with age – an indicator of how well it is working is biological age.
The scientists found that genes played the most important determining role.
Although Peter Joshi, a geneticist at the University of Edinburgh and chancellor’s fellow, agrees that genes play a role, he says lifestyle and life events may be far more influential.
“Anyone who’s been to a school reunion since age 40 will know that we all age at different rates—whether it’s facial wrinkles, body shape, degree of hair loss, or hair loss.” to be white,” he says.
We asked leading experts about the factors that can accelerate aging, whether relatively short-term or long-term changes – and tips on how to combat the effects.
That’s what he told us….
Why does hair turn white with shock?
Gradual graying of hair—due to the loss of the color-providing pigment melanin—is a common sign of aging.
But for some people, especially those who have experienced shock or traumatic life events, the process is anything but gradual – a condition known to dermatologists as Marie Antoinette syndrome.
Although it’s rare (and takes longer than overnight), we have a clearer idea of its cause, thanks to a 2020 study published in the journal Nature.
In a study of rats, a team from Harvard University in the US found that stressful situations activate nerves that form part of the ‘fight or flight’ response in the section of the nervous system responsible for controlling the body’s automatic functions.
It causes permanent damage to the melanocyte stem cells in the hair follicles, which play an important role in the production of the melanin pigment.
The chemical noradrenaline, which is released by nerves when a person is under extreme stress, permanently damages stores of melanocyte stem cells.
Gradual graying of hair – due to the loss of the color-providing pigment melanin – is a common sign of aging
But in another recent study, scientists at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in the US found that stress causes graying of hair, but reducing stress can reverse the process.
Meanwhile, in some cases, premature graying of hair in young people is determined by genes. It can also be caused by a vitamin deficiency (which can be reversed).
A study published in 2015 in the journal Development by researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Human Genetics Unit found that deficiencies of vitamins D3, B12 and copper can contribute to gray hair and can be reversed with supplementation.
Surgery may hasten the decline
Chris Fox, a professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Exeter, who is researching this, says surgery and anesthetics can accelerate the aging process in some cases and have a ‘destructive effect on the brain’.
‘Most people who have surgery or anaesthesia will have no long-term cognitive effects from this, but there are some who do seem to be affected – some older patients will go on with mild cognitive problems and come out of dementia.
“Dementia is a sign of brain aging, so the theory is that surgery may contribute to accelerating the aging process of the brain,” he says.
Professor Fox says this potential risk of anesthesia is greater if you are in intensive care. This doesn’t happen to everyone, but the longer you stay in intensive care, the more noticeable long-term cognitive problems are.
This may be explained by the ‘weak brain hypothesis’ – where some patients are more likely to be affected by surgery or anesthetic.
The surgery and anesthetics can, in some cases, hasten the aging process and have a ‘destructive effect on the brain,’ says Chris Fox, professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Exeter.
This is either because they have a medical condition such as diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or the blood-brain barrier, which normally protects the brain from circulating toxins, is leaking. This means that their brain fills with swelling and…