Stress increases risk of cancer, heart attack and covid – study shows

Stress prematurely weakens the body’s immune system – putting people at greater risk of infections like cancer, heart attacks and COVID-19, warns a new study.

Researchers found that traumatic events — such as the death of a loved one — as well as job stress and discrimination accelerate aging of the immune system, potentially increasing a person’s risk for a whole range of diseases, including heart disease. Huh.

The US team’s findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), may help explain disparities in age-related health, including the greater toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on the elderly.

Study lead author Dr Eric Klopack, from the University of Southern California (USC), said: “As the world’s population of older adults grows, it is essential to understand age-related health disparities.

“Age-related changes in the immune system play an important role in health decline. This study helps to elucidate the mechanisms involved in accelerated immune aging.”

As people age, the immune system naturally begins a dramatic decline, a condition known as immunosenescence.

With advanced age, Dr. Klopack explained that a person’s immune profile weakens, and includes too many worn-out white blood cells and too few fresh, “stupid” white blood cells to take on new invaders. are ready.

He added: “Immune aging increases the risk of not only cancer but also heart disease, pneumonia, reduces the effectiveness of vaccines and prolongs the aging of the organ system.”

USC researchers decided to see if they could find an association between lifetime exposure to stress — a known contributor to poor health — and decreased strength in the immune system.

They queried and cross-referenced vast data sets from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study on the economic, well-being, marital, family status, and public and private support systems of older Americans.

To calculate exposure to different forms of social stress, the team analyzed responses from a national sample of more than 5,700 adults over the age of 50.

Participants answered questionnaires designed to assess respondents’ experiences with social stressors, including stressful life events, chronic stress, everyday hallucinations and lifelong hallucinations.

The participants’ blood samples were analyzed via flow cytometry — a laboratory technique that counts and classifies blood cells as they are passed one by one in a narrow stream in front of a laser.

As expected, those with higher stress scores had older-seeming immune profiles, with lower percentages of fresh disease fighters and higher percentages of worn-out white blood cells.

Dr Klopack said: “The association between less prepared, or naive, T cells to respond to stressful life events remained strong even after controlling for education, smoking, drinking, BMI and race or ethnicity.”

Some sources of stress may be impossible to control, but researchers say there may be a solution.

Dr Klopack said: “T-cells – a vital component of immunity – mature in a gland called the thymus, which sits just in front of and above the heart.

“As people age, the tissue in their thymus shrinks and is replaced by fatty tissue, resulting in reduced production of immune cells.

“Previous research suggests that this process is accelerated by lifestyle factors such as poor diet and low exercise, both of which are associated with social stress.”

He continued: “In this study, after statistically controlling for poor diet and less exercise, the association between stress and accelerated immune aging was not as strong.

“This means that people who experience more stress tend to have poorer diet and exercise habits, partly explaining why they have more accelerated immune aging.”

He added that improving diet and exercise in older adults may help compensate for stress-associated immune aging.

Additionally, he says that cytomegalovirus (CMV) may be a target of interference.

Klopack said: “CMV is a common, usually asymptomatic virus in humans and is known to have a strong effect on accelerating immune aging.

“Like shingles or cold sores, CMV is dormant most of the time but can flare up, especially when a person is experiencing high stress.

“In this study, statistically controlling for CMV positivity also reduced the association between stress and accelerated immune aging.

“Therefore, widespread CMV vaccination may be a relatively simple and potentially powerful intervention that may reduce the immune aging effects of the strain.”

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