July 26, 2012 4:36 pm
Deadlines, appointments, money woes, relationship drama; it seems like there’s no end to the stress of modern life. It turns out that all of these daily grievances may add up, at least for women. New research shows that despite the fact that women live longer on average than men, their brains age faster. Scientists are pointing to stress as the possible culprit.
The New Scientist reports:
When people age, some genes become more active while others become less so. In the human brain, these changes can be observed through the “transcriptome” – a set of RNA molecules that indicate the activity of genes within a population of cells.
The researchers compared the transcriptome of 55 male and female brains of different ages and were surprised to find that the pattern of gene deactivation appears to progress faster in women than in men.
However, sex differences were not uniform among all women. About half the women showed accelerated age-related changes. The researchers say that this hints towards the cause being environmental rather than simply biological.
In an initial trial with monkeys, stress induced similar changes in the females’ brains.
Some researchers, however, say it’s too early to tell whether stress is the differentiator. Inflammation, for example, could lead to similar problems. The researchers do not explain why women’s lives would be inherently more stressful than men’s, either.
The study authors are planning follow-up studies to tease out the possible relationship between stress and accelerated aging. Until the results are in, however, it can’t hurt for ladies to build in a bit of extra time for their favorite stress detox activities, whether that’s enjoying a glass of wine, reading a good book or hitting the gym.
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