Sunday, February 18, 2007

Allostatic Load, the Secret Enemy

A recent study that appeared in the BBC on Line showed that people in the lower class, (blue collar) compared to their white collar counterparts aged faster. To be more precise they were seven years older than their more affluent counterparts. Another study done on 1552 female underpaid, overworked twins showed the same results when their telomeres were analysed by Tim Spector and his colleagues at the Saint Thomas Hospital, London. Dr Spector suggests that low socioeconomic status and its associated oxidative stress on the telomeres cause them to shorten. He also says:

"The greater psychological stress of being in a low social class, with more people above you in the food chain and less control over your life, is the unseen hand that might mean more stress at cellular level," and the "Oxidative stress does make telomeres shorten."

Allostatic load is the enemy. When people are affected by unrelenting stress, the immune system takes a hit. If the stress is temporary, the cells recover. However, if the stress continues day in day out for years, it will have effect on the body through its effects on the chromosomes and the immune system. Some of the diseases that arise because of the allostatic load include depression, Alzheimer, anxiety, heart attack, cardiomyopathy , metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, heart failure and atherosclerosis. If stress can cause allostatic load diseases then it's important that we find ways to decrease stress. Apart from ageing faster, we suffer from many ailments. We have it within us to be able to cope and enjoy life to its fullest. What we have to do is to recognise that we are under stress and find ways to decrease the stress which can be more poisonous than the most virulent microbe. We will discuss how we can withstand the onslaught of stress in the next few postings.

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