Chronic Caregiver Stress May Shorten Lives
Caregiver Stress is an occupational hazard that most readers of OurAlzheimer's will recognize. Stress is known to affect the body in ways that leave the person vulnerable to illness. A long-term research study from the National Institute of Aging (NIA) and The Ohio State University shows that chronic stress suffered by the spouses and children of people with Alzheimer's disease (AD) may shorten their lives.
The study, reported in the Journal of Immunology, indicates that chronic stress can affect caregiver's bodies at a molecular and at a genetic level. Researchers compared Alzheimer's caregivers with non-caregivers, (82 subjects). 26 caregivers were spouses and 15 caregivers were offspring of AD were matched for age (average age 65 years), and gender. They then analyzed blood samples and compared immune cells, telomeres (protect the ends of genetic material) and the enzyme, telomerase.
The researchers, Ronald Glaser, Professor of virology, imunology and medical genetics, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychology and psychiatry and Nan-ping Weng and his researchers found Alzheimer's caregivers:
- showed similar patterns as mothers of chronically ill children who had shortened lifespans of between four and eight years. They had previously been studied by a near three decades long program at The Ohio State University.
- Caregivers had fewer lymphocytes, important in fighting infection.
- Caregivers had a higher level of cytokines, molecules that play a key role in inflammation response.
- Caregivers had more severe symptoms of depression than the control group of non caregivers.
- The telomeres of caregivers were shorter and their level of telomerase repair emzyme was lower.
The research is now going to look at interventions to reduce stress to slow down the weakening of the immune system to reduce caregivers premature death rates.
Strategies that Reduce Stress Can Help Caregivers
Try out some of these techniques to reduce your stress levels;
Accelerated Telomere Erosion is Associated with Declining Immune Function of Caregivers of Alzheimer's Disease Patients
Amanda k. Damjanovic, Yinhua Yang, Ronald Glaser, Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, Huy Nguyen, Bryon Laskowski, Yixiao Zou, Davis Q. Beversdorf. Journal of Immunology