Phobic anxiety seen as possible risk factor for accelerated aging
Anxiety disorders may contribute to premature aging by shortening telomeres, found at end of chromosomes
Does anxiety lead to premature aging? In a cross-sectional medical
study, researchers obtained blood samples from 5,243 women, age 42 to 69
years. In studying the test subject's telomeres, found at the end of
chromosomes, the outcome did indeed suggest that phobic anxiety is a
possible risk factor for accelerated aging.
Shortened telomeres, found on the ends of chromosomes, has been linked to accelerated aging among anxious, phobic women.
Telomeres protect chromosomes from deteriorating and guard the genetic information at the ends of chromosomes during cell division and are considered markers of biological or cellular aging. Shortened telomeres have been linked to increased risk of cancers, heart disease, dementia and mortality.
Researchers analyzed telomere lengths, as well as the participants' concurrent self-reports regarding phobic symptoms on a questionnaire. The difference in telomere lengths for women who were highly phobic vs. not was similar to what was seen for an additional six years of age.
"Many people wonder about whether - and how - stress can make us age faster," study author Olivia Okereke, MD, MS, BWH Department of Psychiatry, says. "So, this study is notable for showing a connection between a common form of psychological stress - phobic anxiety - and a plausible mechanism for premature aging. However, this type of study design cannot prove cause-and-effect or which problem came first - the anxiety or shorter telomeres."
Chronic panic, phobia, and similar anxiety disorders may contribute to premature aging by shortening telomeres.
Women with the most severe phobic anxiety had telomere length 0.09 standardized units below average (P=0.02 versus less phobic women), Okereke says.
"The magnitude of this difference was comparable to that for women 6 years apart in age," they noted.
There's reason to be concerned for those who worry excessively as the shortening of telomeres -- a gradual process of loss of the repetitive DNA sequences capping off chromosomes that occurs when cells divide -- isn't reversible.
Prior studies have suggested that oxidative stress and inflammation accelerates the process, leading to DNA damage linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and dementia.
"Phobic anxiety is treatable; thus, any potential impacts on telomere shortening may be amenable to prevention through early identification and treatment," the researchers explained.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Telomeres, chromosomes, DNA, anxiety, phobia, women, study
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