VSL:SCIENCE // How stress keeps us young

Doctors and scientists have told us that stress causes heart disease, stomach cancer, and other assorted ailments. But according to scientists at Northwestern University, a little stress can actually be good for you.

When cells are exposed to a stressor such as heat, they initiate a biochemical cascade that aims to limit the damage. A key element of this “heat shock” response is the repair of proteins that have been misfolded or injured — a process that extends the life span of the cells and thus the organism. And so, certain forms of stress (calorically restricted diets, a few long days at the office) may be healthy: They’re too mild to cause serious harm but significant enough to trigger the repair mechanism. The secret, then, isn’t avoiding stress entirely — it’s finding ways to make sure the stress isn’t chronic.

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