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The stress and disease connection


Stress contributes to the breakdown of mind and body. Psychological stress is linked to greater risk of depression, heart disease and infectious diseases. But, until now, that process has been unclear and the connection has not clearly been understood.

Chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response. New research shows for the first time that the effects of psychological stress on the body’s ability to regulate inflammation causes progression of disease.

“Inflammation is partly regulated by the hormone cortisol and when cortisol is not allowed to serve this function, inflammation can get out of control,” said Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E Doherty Professor of Psychology within Carnegie Mellon University’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol. It decreases tissue sensitivity to the hormone. Immune cells become insensitive to cortisol’s regulatory effect. Runaway inflammation then promotes the development of disease.

“The immune system’s ability to regulate inflammation predicts who will develop a cold, but more importantly it provides an explanation of how stress can promote disease,” Cohen explained. “When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control and consequently, produce level of inflammation that promote disease. Because inflammation plays a role in many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders, this model suggests why stress impacts them as well,” stated Cohen. “Knowing this is important for identifying which diseases may be influenced by stress and for preventing disease in chronically stressed people.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, CMU

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