Long-term stress can age the immune system

Studies
How long-term stress affects the immune system

The man is sitting at the table and is stressed

Whether at work or in the family – chronic stress could cause the immune system to age faster.

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Constant stress makes you sick. U.S. researchers have now found that negative stress can cause the immune system to age faster.

One meeting follows another, the list of tasks seems endless, there are conflicts in the family – permanent negative stress is done wrong. Consequences include apathy, gastrointestinal problems and insomnia. Researchers at the University of South California have now discovered how the immune system suffers when the body is under constant stress.

With increasing age, it is perfectly normal for the immune system to weaken. Pathogens penetrate the body more easily as the immune system weakens over the years. As we age, the T cells of the immune system become less effective in fighting pathogens. “Fresh” defense cells are missing. The immune system needs it to fight new and unknown pathogens. Another factor is that there are more worn white blood cells. This age-related weakening of the immune system is called immune senescence. The result: a higher risk of age-related health problems, such as cancer or cardiovascular disease.

The immune system is aging due to stress

When two people reach 50, they may have different immunological ages, explains study author Eric Klopack in The Conversation. Immune aging can also be observed in middle age. Persistent stress is considered a possible cause. To verify this thesis, the researchers asked 5,744 people over the age of 50 about social stress and took blood samples. The researchers asked subjects about various stressors: stressful life events, lifelong and daily discrimination, trauma and chronic stress (e.g.

Result: Subjects: inside who were more stressed had an older immune system. The researchers found more worn-out white blood cells and fewer “fresh” immune cells. “Older T cells that have exhausted their ability to fight intruders produce proteins that can increase inflammation. People with low levels of newer T cells and high levels of older T cells have an elderly immune system,” explains Eric’s toiletry package. Researchers have also been able to see the link between stress and the aging of the immune system, taking into account factors such as alcohol consumption, smoking and body mass index. In their study, researchers could also observe that long-term stress leads to lack of exercise and poor eating habits.

Lifestyle change can have a positive impact

However, those who eat well and have enough exercise seem to be able to compensate for the negative effects of stress. Better stress management can also have a positive effect on the immune system. However, Klopack emphasizes that the type of study he and his team did could not fully explain the cause and effect. More studies are needed to better understand how chronic stress affects immune aging.

“Less old immune systems are better able to fight infection and produce protective immunity from vaccines. Immune aging may explain why people are likely to have more severe cases of Covid-19 and a weaker response to vaccines as they age. For research, this is important for a better understanding. the aging of the immune system, ”says Eric Klopack.

Sources: Studie University South California, The Conversation

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