Research shows that social stress can weaken your immune system


Social stress, such as discrimination and family problems, along with work and money problems, contribute to the premature aging of your immune system, according to a recent study. This is doubled as the immune system weakens with age.

Eric Klopact, a postdoctoral researcher at the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California, says immune aging can lead to cancer, heart disease and other age-related health conditions, and reduces the effectiveness of vaccines such as Covid-19.

“Immune profiles of people with high stress scores were older, the percentage of those who struggled with a new disease was lower, and the percentage of obsolete T cells was higher,” Klopac said.

T cells are the body’s most important defenders, performing several basic functions. “Killer” T cells can directly destroy infected and cancerous cells and help clean up old cells called “zombie cells” that do not divide but refuse to die.

Aging cells are a problem because they secrete a variety of proteins that affect the surrounding tissues. These cells contribute to chronic inflammation. As they accumulate in the body, they contribute to aging conditions such as osteoporosis, chronic lung disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition to finding that people with high levels of stress have more zombie cells, Klopak and his team also found that they had fewer “naive” T cells, the young, new cells required to accept new invaders.

“This paper adds to the conclusion that psychological stress on the one hand, and well-being and resources on the other, are related to immunological aging,” said Suzanne Segerstrom, a clinical psychologist who did not participate in the study.

Segerstrom, a professor of developmental, social, and health psychology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, studied the link between self-regulation, stress, and immune function.

“In one of our new studies … older people with psychological resources had ‘young’ T cells,” Segerstrom said.

Klopac’s study, published in the National Academy of Sciences, analyzed the blood biomarkers of 5,744 adults over the age of 50 collected as part of the Health and Retirement Survey. in older Americans.

Respondents were asked about their level of social stress, which included “stressful life experiences, chronic stress, daily discrimination and lifelong discrimination,” Klopak said. Their responses were then compared to the level of T cells found in blood tests.

“This is the first time that detailed information on immune cells has been collected in this large national survey,” Klopak said. “We found that the proportion of erroneous cells was low and the proportion of older T cells was higher in older people’s immune systems.”

The study showed a link between stressful life events and a few simple T-cells that remain strong even after tracking knowledge, smoking, alcohol consumption, weight and race or ethnicity, Klopak said.

However, given the poor nutrition and lack of exercise, some of the link between levels of social stress and the aging of the immune system was missing.

The findings show how much control our immune system ages under stress, Klopak said.

Experts say that when stress hormones overwhelm the body, the neural circuits in the brain change, affecting our ability to think and make decisions. Anxiety can increase, and mood can change. All of these neurological changes affect our entire body, including our autonomic, metabolic, and immune systems.

“The most common stressors are those that are chronic, often low-level, and that lead us to behavior in some way. For example, “stress” can lead to anxiety and depression, leading to sleep deprivation at night, eating unhealthy foods, taking in more calories than our bodies need, smoking or drinking too much alcohol, “wrote Bruce McAven, a renowned neuroendocrinologist in 2017. Considering the effects on the brain.

McAven, who discovered in 1968 that the brain’s hippocampus could be altered by stress hormones such as cortisol, died in 2020 after 54 years of neuroendocrinology research at Rockefeller University in New York.

“Stress” can also cause us to lose interest in seeing our friends, to take time off from work, or to cut back on regular physical activity because we try to get out of the house, for example, by sitting at a computer. It’s too much, ”McAven wrote.

There are ways to stop stress. Deep breathing boosts our parasympathetic nervous system, on the contrary The answer is “fly or fight”. You can take a deep breath if you fill your stomach with air up to six. Experts say that moving your body slowly is another way to exercise your calming reflex.

Stop stressful, anxious thinking with cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. Randomized clinical trials have shown that it relieves depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating and sleep disorders, drug addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more. This is a practice Experts say it focuses more on the present than ever before and is usually a short-term treatment.

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