A recent study by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) found that Stress, traumatic events, stress at work and other daily stressors accelerate the aging of the immune system, which can increase the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diseases caused by viral or bacterial infections.
The investigationpublished on June 13 Notices of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), can help explain age-related health differences, including the uneven number of pandemics, and identify possible points of intervention.
But what is the immune system and what is it for?
“The immune system consists of cells, organs and proteins that circulate in the blood and function as a network in which they are interconnected. Normal is a constant balance and this balance is threatened by various situations ranging from stress to environmental elements. The system is ready to counteract this and always return to balance. Immunology and rheumatology specialist Pablo Manucci (MN 96008) explained to Infobae What “Today, it is known that in addition to controlling infections caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi, the immune system controls the development of tumors and the appearance of autoimmune diseases, which is much wider than previously thought.”
For lead author Eric Klopak, a postdoctoral fellow at USC, “As the global elderly population grows, it is essential to understand age-related health differences. Age-related changes in the immune system play a major role in deteriorating health. “This study helps to elucidate the mechanisms involved in the accelerated aging of immunity”added the researcher.
With age, the immune system naturally begins to undergo drastic degradation, a condition called immunosuppression. With age, a person’s immune profile weakens, including too many worn-out circulating white blood cells and too few fresh “naive” white blood cells ready to take on new invaders.
Immune aging has been linked not only to cancer but also to cardiovascular disease, an increased risk of pneumonia, reduced vaccine efficacy and organ aging.
But what is the explanation for the drastic differences in health in adults of the same age? In this regard, USC researchers decided to see if they could find a link between lifelong stress exposure, some contribution to ill health and a weakened immune system.
“Exposure to stress is a risk factor for poor health and accelerated aging. Immune aging, including a reduction in naive T cells and an increase in highly differentiated T cells, plays a role in immune health and tissue-specific aging and may contribute to an increased risk of deteriorating health among people experiencing high psychosocial stress.assured the authors in the publication of their conclusions.
Experts consult and compare vast data sets from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Survey, a national long-term study of economics, health, marital status, marital status, and public support systems for older Americans.
To assess exposure to various forms of social stress, the researchers analyzed responses from a national sample of 5,744 adults aged 50 and over who responded to a questionnaire designed to assess social stress experiences, including stressful life events, chronic stress, daily life. discrimination and lifelong discrimination.
They then analyzed blood samples from participants using flow cytometry, a laboratory technique that counts and sorts blood cells as they pass one by one into a narrow stream in front of a laser.
As expected, people with higher stress scores had higher immune profiles, with lower rates of fresh disease fighters and higher rates of worn-out white blood cells. The link between stressful life events and less responsive or naive T cells remains strong even after control for education, smoking, drinking, BMI and race / ethnicity, the researchers found.
Some sources of stress are impossible to control, but researchers say there may be a solution.
T cells, a critical component of immunity, mature in a gland called the thymus, which is located just in front of and above the heart. With age, thymus tissue shrinks and is replaced by adipose tissue, which reduces the production of immune cells. Previous research has shown that this process is accelerated by lifestyle factors such as poor diet and lack of exercise, which are associated with social stress.
“In this study, after statistical controls on poor diet and lack of exercise, the link between stress and accelerated aging of the immune system was not as strong,” Klopak said. This means that people who experience more stress tend to have poorer diets and exercise habits, which partly explains why they have a faster aging of the immune system. “
Thus, improving the behavior of diet and exercise in the elderly can help compensate for stress-related immune aging.