The common disease that will age you on the inside

It's what's inside that counts, right?

This isn't just the feel-good baloney we say to friends when those first gray hairs and wrinkles appear. It's SCIENCE -- because while those outward signs of aging won't hurt you, aging on the inside is what will ultimately kill you.

There are plenty of ways you can get old fast, but there's one condition in particular that can cause your internal clock to run far too fast -- and it's a condition we all face at some point: depression.

Cutting-edge new research shows how depression can speed aging on a cellular level by shrinking your telomeres.

Those are the little caps that sit on the ends of your chromosomes. As you get older, they get shorter. And as they get shorter, your risk of the so-called diseases of aging grows -- including cancer, dementia, heart disease and even death.

And while age alone is the main reason for that shrink, depression will do the trick, too -- and severe or chronic depression can shrink your telomeres by about as much as SIX YEARS of aging, according to the new study.

Now, the one caveat here is that study doesn't show if the telomere shrink is caused by the depression itself... or the drugs often given to treat it.

I'd say that's an area ripe for more research, if anyone has the nerve to take on Big Pharma.

But either way, don't let serious depression go unchecked -- because this so-called mental condition can hurt more than just your mood. Depression can increase inflammation throughout your body and boost the production of damaging free radicals -- making it a major risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and death from heart attack.

Less serious cases of depression will go away on their own over time, but severe or chronic depression will need a little more work.

Start with a good multivitamin from a maker you trust and St. Johns wort -- but if those don't do the trick, you may need hormonal treatments from an experienced naturopathic physician.

I recommend a member of the American College for Advancement in Medicine.