Health: Stress Ages Immune System

Society | July 11, 2003, Friday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0

Long-term stress may cause illness by prematurely ageing the immune system, research suggests.

Scientists have discovered stressful experiences can boost production of chemicals that regulate the body's immune system.

One of these, interleukin 6 (IL-6), naturally increases with age, and is linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and other age-related conditions.

A team led by Dr Ronald Glaser, from Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, US, measured levels of this chemical in 119 older men and women who were caring for a spouse with dementia.

Over six years, levels of the chemical increased four times faster in the carers compared with 106 people not providing care.

Former carers continued to have elevated IL-6 for up to three years after the death of the spouse they were looking after.

Previous research has shown carers are generally iller and have a poorer immune response to influenza than the rest of the population.

They also have elevated blood pressure, and their wounds heal slowly.
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