There are many risk factors for a severe course of the corona virus – such as previous illnesses or being overweight. As a new study shows, stress also plays a significant role. And the same goes for other infectious diseases. How to counteract.
Stress could increase the risk of death from infectious diseases. This is shown by a new study that US researchers have now published in the journal “Nature”. The study shows how closely the nervous and immune systems are connected.
Scientists have known for a long time that psychological stress can affect our immune system. However, it has not yet been possible to explain the mechanisms behind this. The new study is the first to show how certain brain regions control the body’s cellular immune response – albeit initially only in a mouse model. The researchers studied this phenomenon in both Covid-19 and influenza infected animals.
The discovered mechanism can be described as follows:
The result: The reduced immune response to viruses such as Sars-CoV-2 or influenza makes the body less resistant. This puts the body at “a higher risk of complications and death,” the researchers wrote in a statement. The mechanism could also have negative effects on heart health due to the constant flow of white blood cells into the bloodstream.
Since this is only a study in mice for the time being, the mechanism must be examined in clinical studies in humans in the future. According to the researchers, however, it provides important insights: “This work shows us that stress has a major impact on our immune system and its ability to fight infections. It raises many questions about how socioeconomic factors, lifestyle, and the environments we live in control how our bodies fight infection,” said study author Filip Swirski, PhD, director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the results.
He advocates a better understanding of the long-term effects of stress in the future. “It will be particularly important to explore how we can build resilience to stress and whether resilience can reduce the negative effects of stress on our immune system.”
The study aims to prompt doctors to further examine their patients’ mental state, including sleep patterns and stress levels. Physicians could help their patients in two ways:
1. Strengthen the psyche
The study shows how important it is to strengthen the psyche and reduce stress. You should also pay attention to physical warning signs such as
If you notice that these symptoms last longer, you should question your stress level or consult a doctor.
As psychologist Donya Gilan from the Leibniz Institute for Resilience Research FOCUS Online said, the following method can strengthen the psyche: You should train positive emotions “and not necessarily avoid challenging situations, but rather consider whether you could develop further by doing so”, she guesses. Overall, resilience, mental strength, is a lifelong learning process that is dynamic, includes advances and regressions, grows through learning, conscious training and experience.
2. Strengthen the immune system
The study also shows how important a strong immune system is. Even if you feel healthy, you should not neglect this. For example, you can strengthen it through diet. Try to include the following foods in your everyday life:
At the same time, exercise, especially in the fresh air, helps to strengthen your immune system. Even if these methods don’t prevent infection, they can help make it easier to fight the infection.