Have you ever noticed how older people get sick more often? This is due to an aging immune system, which is not able to ward off beetles the way spring chickens can. Now, a new study suggests that stress can cause your immune system to age dramatically, leaving people with well-rested blood pressure at higher risk of illness.
“Adults who reported chronic stressors, severe life trauma, and stressful life events tended to have cell percentages that were indicative of greater immune aging,” says lead author of the study, Eric Klopack from the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
There are two possible ways stress causes the immune system to age, says Klopack. The first is that it leads to unhealthy behaviors, such as poor nutrition, which can shrink the thymus, an organ responsible for T-cell growth (important for immune function). Second, stress can activate a specific virus (cytomegalovirus, or CMV) in the body, which damages the immune system.
“Since it is often impossible to avoid stress, building resilience and coping tools could be useful. A strong social support network can help reduce health risks associated with stress.”
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