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New Research Reveals How Stress Can Kill


Researchers from the University of Connecticut Health Center have found a striking link between your nervous system and your immune system, revealing just how chronic stress may kill you.


Researchers have revealed that stress is intricately intertwined with the functioning of your immune system.

The researchers found that the same part of your nervous system that is responsible for the fight-or-flight stress response (the sympathetic nervous system (SNS)) also controls regulatory T cells, which are used by your body to end an immune response once the threatening foreign invader has been destroyed.

"We show for the first time that the nervous system controls the central immune police cells, called regulatory T cells," said Robert E. Cone, Ph.D., a senior researcher at the University of Connecticut Health Center, in ScienceDaily. "This further shows that it is imperative to concentrate on the neuro-immune interactions and to understand how these two different systems, the immune and nervous systems, interact."

Their new research on mice revealed that the sympathetic nervous system can negatively impact your immune system, and also shed some light on why stress often exacerbates autoimmune disorders like lupus, arthritis and eczema.

“Neurological events mediated by the SNS, such as a stress response, may affect the number of T cells that regulate an immune response,” the researchers wrote.

A separate study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology also found that stress, including anger and other strong emotions, can predict arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) and may even lead to sudden cardiac arrest (which kills 95% of those it strikes).

"It's an important study because we are beginning to understand how anger and other types of mental stress can trigger potentially lethal ventricular arrhythmias, especially among patients with structural heart abnormalities," Dr. Rachel Lampert of the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., said on

Stress Impacts Your Health on Multiple Levels

Chronic stress is known to actually intensify inflammation, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), which makes you more vulnerable to inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis.

You may also not have known that stress can actually accelerate aging. According to a 2006 study presented at the 114th Annual Convention of the APA, people with chronic stress are more likely to suffer from age-related diseases including Alzheimer's disease, major depression, mental decline, osteoporosis and metabolic syndrome.

Stress can also trigger diabetes, or worsen it if you already have it, because when your body is stressed it releases stress hormones that automatically release extra sugar into your bloodstream (which is, of course, not a good thing for someone with diabetes who is already struggling with high blood sugar).

Stress can even impact your weight. According to the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation, the greater the stress in a woman's life, the greater her weight. This was true even after other factors, like exercise habits, diet and smoking, were accounted for.

How to Keep Your Stress Levels Under Control

It’s hard to feel calm and relaxed all the time, but if you’re feeling your stress levels rise at least take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. Nearly 75 percent of Americans say they’re stressed, with money and work topping the list for why, according to a Stress in America survey by the American Psychological Association.

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Learning effective stress-management tools is therefore essential for your mental sanity and your physical health, and here we’ve listed five methods you can start using today.

1. Exercise: Aside from strengthening your heart and lungs, two organs that can become physically affected from too much stress, it's great for your mental health too. Exercising increases the levels of endorphins in your body, which stimulate your immune system, reduce stress and put you in a better mood.

Stretching should be integrated with your exercise routine, as it will provide you with increased energy levels and an even greater sense of well-being. There are countless stretches for your body, but it takes just 15 of them to stretch 95 percent of your body, according to stretching expert and creator of the DVD Stretching Toward a Healthier Life, Jacques Gauthier. His Stretching Toward a Healthier Life DVD shows you all 15 of these most effective stretching exercises, and the full program takes just 15 to 20 minutes a day. also highly recommends integrating a mind-body fitness program, such as SheaNetics from, into your routine.

SheaNetics is a unique fitness and self-help philosophy dedicated to providing you with life-improving ideas and the inspirational motivation needed to achieve complete well-being. You can find out more and view an introductory video at

2. Take Time to Relax: This may sound easy, but how many of you reading this actually schedule time into your day to relax and enjoy life? Your body and mind know how to relax -- you just need to give them "permission" to do so. This is easier said than done, of course, so for those of you who need a little help, we highly recommend the Pure Relaxation: Guided Meditations for Body, Mind & Spirit CD by respected meditation expert Mary Maddux.

The guided meditations and music on this CD calm your mind, soothe your emotions and create a state of deep relaxation in your body.

3. Sleep Well: When we sleep, the stress hormone, cortisol, is lowered, but when we are sleep deprived, cortisol levels rise. Further, your energy levels will go down and you'll be less able to cope with any setbacks during your day.

4. Proper Nutrition: Fortifying your body with the nutrients it needs is key to reducing stress (and staying healthy while you're feeling it), as stress can actually rob your body of nutrients. This means eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and other antioxidant-rich foods while avoiding junk foods. Also take advantage of these nine foods that help you de-stress quickly.

5. Get Support: Stress can lead to feelings of depression and even isolation; keeping a network of social ties can help to reduce those negative feelings and boost your mood. It can also open new opportunities in your life, which may boost your feelings of well-being.

Recommended Reading

Stress Keeping You Awake? Stressed Because You Can't Sleep? Try These Six Tips and Six Lifestyle Habits

You Really Can Die From a Broken Heart


Journal of Leukocyte Biology 2009 86: 1275-1283

Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2009 Mar 3;53(9):779-81.

ScienceDaily December 28, 2009 February 24, 2009

American Psychological Association

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