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Prolonged stress could age the immune system

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How Prolonged Stress Affects the Immune System

Whether it’s at work or in the family, chronic stress could make the immune system age faster.

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Constant stress makes you sick. US researchers have now found that negative stress could make the immune system age faster.

One date follows another, the to-do list seems endless, there are conflicts in the family – permanent negative stress makes you sick. Consequences include listlessness, gastrointestinal upset and insomnia. Researchers at the University of Southern California have now discovered how the immune system suffers when the body is under constant stress.

As we age, it is quite normal for the immune system to weaken. Pathogens find it easier to enter the body because the immune system weakens over the years. As we age, the immune system’s T cells become less effective at fighting pathogens. There is a lack of “fresh” defense cells. The immune system needs it to fight new and unknown pathogens. Another factor is that there are more white blood cells being consumed. This age-related weakening of the immune system is called immune senescence. The result: an increased risk of age-related health problems such as cancer or cardiovascular disease.

The immune system ages due to stress

By the time two people reach their 50s, they may be of different immunological ages, explains study author Eric Klopack in The Conversation. Immunosenescence can also be observed in middle age. Persistent stress is considered a possible cause. To test this, the researchers asked 5,744 people over the age of 50 about social stress and took blood samples. Scientists questioned subjects about various stressors: stressful life events, permanent and daily discrimination, trauma, and chronic stress (e.g. through work).

The result: The subjects: On the inside, who were exposed to more stress, they had an older immune system. The researchers found more white blood cells consumed and fewer “fresh” immune cells. “Older T cells that have exhausted their ability to fight off invaders produce proteins that can increase inflammation. People with low levels of newer T cells and high levels of older T cells have aging immune systems. “explains Eric. The researchers were also able to see the connection between stress and the aging of the immune system when they considered factors such as alcohol consumption, smoking status, and body mass index. In their study, the researchers were also able to observe that long-term stress leads to lack of exercise and poor eating habits.

Changing your lifestyle can have a positive impact

However, those who eat well and get 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 points out that the type of study conducted by him and his team cannot fully elucidate cause and effect. More studies are needed to better understand how chronic stress affects immune aging.

“Less aged immune systems are better able to fight infections and generate protective immunity from vaccines. Immunosenescence may explain why people are likely to have more severe cases of Covid-19 and a weaker response to vaccines while It’s important for research to understand the aging immune system better, ”says Eric Klopack.

Sources: Study University South California, The Conversation

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