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Chronic Psychological Stress and

its Effects on the Human Body


Rhiannon Gagin
Biology Major, Old Dominion University
Sponsor: Dr. Chris Osgood
BIOL 405

What is stress?

Chronic Stress Affects

Cardiovascular system
Gastrointestinal system
Immune system
Cells, causing premature aging

What is a stressor?

Exams
Deadlines
Arguments
Traffic

The Stress Response

Body

Amygdala

Hypothalam
us

Higher blood
pressure and
oxygen
intake

Release
epinephrine

Adrenal
glands

HPA Axis

Activates
adrenal
glands

Activates
pituitary
gland

Hypothalam
us

Releases
CRH

Releases
ACTH

Release
s
cortisol

Stress and the Heart

Higher heart rate and blood pressure


Cardiovascular disease
Hypertension
Heart attack
Stroke

Stress and the Gastrointestinal


System
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Peptic ulcer disease

Stress and the Immune System

Interleukin-6 = pro-inflammatory cytokine


Pro-inflammatory cytokines respond to injury
and infection
They increase with age and poor lifestyle
choices

Stress levels and IL-6


Study by Susan K Lutgendorf from University
of Iowa
18 women
caring for a
Demographics:
loved one
with
Alzheimer
s

17 women
in the
process of
relocation

20 younger
women

15 women
with
neither
stressors

Data Collection
Profile of Mood States (POMS)
Survey on experienced emotions over a week

Early morning blood draws


To test IL-6 levels

Results

Alzheimers caregivers showed higher scores in


categories of anxiety, depression, anger, fatigue, and
confusion
Caregivers also had the highest levels of IL-6

Stress and Effect on Cells


Each cell contains 46 chromosomes
At end of DNA strands are telomeres
(protective caps)

Telomeres and Cellular


Aging
Cell divide 50-70 times
With each division, part of the telomere is
unable to replicate
Gradual shortening of telomeres leads to
cellular aging

Slowing Cellular Aging


A 5 year study done by researchers at University of California, SF

35 men with
early stage
prostate
cancer
10 men
participated
in lifestyle
changes

25 men did
not

Results

10 who changed
lifestyle had 10%
increase in telomere
length
Control group lost 3%
of their telomere
length

Stress Control with


Meditation
Transcendental Meditation: mentally
repeating a word or phrase
Reduces blood pressure and cortisol levels

Conclusion
Ongoing release of cortisol has negative
effects on the body
Stress takes a toll on vital bodily systems
However, this can be slowed with stress
management

Works Cited
Bergland, C. (2014, April 7). Emotional Distress Can Speed Up Cellular
Aging. Retrieved fromhttps
://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201404/emotional-distre
ss-can-speed-cellularaging
Fernandez, E. (2013, September 16). Lifestyle Changes May Lengthen
Telomeres, A Measure of Cell Aging. Retrieved from
https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2013/09/108886/lifestyle-changes-may-lengthen
-telomeres-measure-cellaging
Lutgendorf, S., Garand, L., Buckwalter, K.C., Reimer, T.T., Hong, S., &
Lubaroff, D. (1999). Life stress, mood disturbance, and elevated interleukin6 in healthy older women. Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological
Sciences and Medical Sciences, 54A, M434 M439.