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Lifetime of stress may lead to inflammatory disease

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Greater exposure to stress over a lifetime has been linked to higher levels of inflammation. The study of over 1000 patients with cardiovascular disease were examined in the first study to show the relation ship between cumulative traumatic stress exposure and inflammation. Scientists found that the greater the stress, the more elevated the inflammatory markers in the bloodstream.

“This may be significant for people with cardiovascular disease, because we know that heart disease patients with higher levels of inflammation tend to have worse outcomes,” said Aoife O'Donovan, PhD, lead author.

Researchers measured the levels of inflammatory biomarkers in almost 1000 patients who had experienced traumatic events. Five years later they measured again and the people with the highest levels to begin with, retained the highest levels in the group.

“This study emphasizes that traumatic stress can have a long term negative impact on your health even if you do go on to develop PTSD. It also tells us that, as clinicians, we need to think about not just with diagnostic box someone might fit into, but what their lifetime trauma exposure has been,” explained Beth Cohen, a physician at SFVAMC.

People with heightened threat sensitivity show increased inflammatory response. “What we think is happening is that people with a history of multiple traumatic stress exposures have increased inflammatory response more often and for longer periods, and so inflammation becomes chronically high,” Cohen stated.

“This is a study of older people, and the cumulative effects that decades of traumatic experiences have on their bodies. If we could intervene with young people, using techniques that we know help fight stress, such as exercise, yoga and other integrative health techniques, it would be interesting to know if we might be able to prevent some of this,” Cohen concluded.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, UCSF

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