Lifestyle and genetics, as well as a variety of other factors both within and beyond our control, have been linked to the development of metabolic syndrome, a group of diseases that increase the risk of serious health problems.
A new study has found that stress, because of its tendency to increase inflammation in the body, is also associated with metabolic syndrome, prompting researchers to suggest that inexpensive and very simple stress management approaches may be a strategy for improving biological results.
“We looked specifically at people in midlife—a period that is critical for identifying those who will experience accelerated aging. Stress is a major contributor to many negative health outcomes as we age,” said senior author Jasmeet Hayes, associate professor of psychology at The Ohio State University.
READ ALSO: What is stress and what does it do to our body?
We are now on WhatsApp. Click to join
“There are many variables that affect metabolic syndrome, some we can’t modify, but others we can. Everyone experiences stress,” Hayes said. “And managing stress is a modifiable factor that is cost-effective as well as something that people can do in their daily lives without having to involve medical professionals.”
The research was recently published in Brain, Behavior, & Immunity – Health.
Links between stress and biological health are well established, but few previous studies have specifically examined the involvement of inflammation in the link between stress and the metabolic syndrome.
People with metabolic syndrome are diagnosed with at least three of five factors that increase their risk for heart disease, diabetes and other health problems – excess belly fat, high blood pressure, low HDL (good) cholesterol and high fasting blood glucose levels, and triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. The condition is also referred to as insulin resistance syndrome.
Using data from a sample of 648 participants (mean age 52) in a national survey called Midlife in the United States, first author Savana Jurgens created a statistical model to measure how inflammation might fit into the relationship between stress and metabolic syndrome. The analysis used information from respondents’ self-reported perceived stress, blood biomarkers of inflammation, and physical examination results indicating risk factors for metabolic syndrome.
“There’s not a lot of research that has looked at all three variables at once,” said Jurgens, a psychology graduate student in Hayes’ lab. “There is a lot of work that suggests that stress is related to inflammation, inflammation is related to metabolic syndrome, and stress is related to metabolic syndrome. But putting all those pieces together is rare.”
Composite inflammation scores were calculated using biomarkers that included the best-known IL-6 and C-reactive protein, as well as E-selectin and ICAM-1, which help recruit white blood cells during inflammation, and fibrinogen, a protein essential for blood clotting formation.
Statistical modeling showed that stress is indeed related to metabolic syndrome, and inflammation explains more than half of that relationship—61.5%, to be exact.
“There is a small effect of perceived stress on metabolic syndrome, but inflammation explains a large proportion of it,” Jurgens said.
The results made sense—stress is just one of many factors that can throw health indicators into disarray. Other factors include a range of behaviors such as inactivity, unhealthy eating habits, smoking and poor sleep, as well as low socioeconomic status, advanced age and being female.
But considering that an estimated 1 in 3 American adults has metabolic syndrome, it’s important to know how to reduce the risk or prevent it altogether, Hayes said. The findings also add to evidence that stress, and its connection to inflammation, can have a major impact on biological health in general.
“People think of stress as mental health, that it’s all psychological. It’s not. There are real physical effects of chronic stress,” Hayes said. “It could be inflammation, it could be metabolic syndrome or any number of things. This is another reminder of that.” (A I)
This story has been published from a news agency feed without text modifications. Only the title has changed.