Stressful situations boost diseases of aging, reveals study conducted by UCSF researchers.
In a study of 50 women, about half of them caring for relatives with dementia, the psychologists found that those most threatened by the anticipation of stressful tasks in the laboratory and through public speaking and solving math problems, looked older at the cellular level. The researchers assessed cellular age by measuring telomeres, which are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes. Short telomeres index older cellular age and are associated with increased risk for a host of chronic diseases of aging, including cancer, heart disease and stroke.
"We are getting closer to understanding how chronic stress translates into the present moment," said Elissa Epel, PhD, an associate professor in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and a lead investigator on the study. "As stress researchers, we try to examine the psychological process of how people respond to a stressful event and how that impacts their neurobiology and cellular health.