Stress Linked to Aging Chromosomes

A recent research study links stress with shorter telomeres – buffers that help guard chromosomes. Telomere regions deter the degradation of genes near the ends of chromosomes by allowing chromosome ends to shorten, which necessarily occurs during chromosome replication. Over time, due to cell division, our telomere ends become shorter. Stress can accelerate this aging process.

New research finds that telomere regions are significantly shorter in people with depression, which is often linked to irregular stress hormone levels. Furthermore, people without depression who reported feeling the most stressed also had shorter telomeres. And abnormal levels of stress hormones have been found in people with post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome.

Shorter telomeres are linked to aging and poor health. Shortened telomeres impair immune function that make people more susceptible to various diseases, including cancer.

You may blame work stress for those gray hairs and wrinkles. But the impact of work stress on your chromosomes may have a bigger impact on your health, and ultimately your life.

The findings are in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry. [Mikael Wikgren, et al., “Short Telomeres in Depression and the General Population Are Associated with a Hypocortisolemic State”]

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