UC study reveals that accumulative life stressors can be modified by a healthy lifestyle.

stress1The research from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco, revealed that life stressors accelerate cellular aging but that these negative effects can be reduced with a healthy diet, exercise and sleeping well.

The study examined three healthy behaviors over a period of one year in 239 post-menopausal, non smoking women. Blood samples were provided at the beginning of the study and at the end with reports of stressful events that occurred during these 12 months.

The results revealed that women who did not exhibit health behavior showed a significantly greater decline in telomere length for every major life stressor that they were exposed to. In contrast women who maintained active lifestyles, healthy diets, and good quality sleep appeared protected when exposed to stress.

“The study participants who exercised, slept well and ate well had less telomere shortening than the ones who didn’t maintain healthy lifestyles, even when they had similar levels of stress,” said lead author Eli Puterman, PhD, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at UCSF. “It’s very important that we promote healthy living, especially under circumstances of typical experiences of life stressors like death, caregiving and job loss.”

A telomere is a region of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromatid, which protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes.

“This is the first study that supports the idea, at least observationally, that stressful events can accelerate immune cell aging in adults, even in the short period of one year. Exciting, though, is that these results further suggest that keeping active, and eating and sleeping well during periods of high stress are particularly important to attenuate the accelerated aging of our immune cells,” said Puterman.


E Puterman, J Lin, J Krauss, E H Blackburn, E S Epel. Determinants of telomere attrition over 1 year in healthy older women: stress and health behaviors matter. Molecular Psychiatry, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/mp.2014.70

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