Telomeres and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors

Kristen Sparrow • July 15, 2011

Dusted off this oldie also. By the same group looking at cardiovascular health and telomeres and stress. (This post is an offshoot of this earlier post.)
*1: *Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2006 Apr;31(3):277-87. Epub 2005 Nov

Cell aging in relation to stress arousal and cardiovascular
disease risk factors.

UCSF Department of Psychiatry, San Francisco, CA, USA.

We previously reported that psychological stress is linked to and
possibly accelerates cellular aging, as reflected by lower PBMC
telomerase and shortened telomeres. Psychological stress is a major
risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), with multiple
behavioral and physiological mediators. Telomere shortness has been
associated with CVD, but the relationship between low telomerase
activity, a potential precursor to telomere shortening, and CVD risk
factors has not been examined in humans. Here we examine whether
telomere length and telomerase in leukocytes are associated with
physiological signs of stress arousal and CVD risk factors in 62
healthy women. Low telomerase activity in leukocytes was associated
with exaggerated autonomic reactivity to acute mental stress and
elevated nocturnal epinephrine. Further, low telomerase activity was
associated with the major risk factors for CVD -smoking, poor lipid
profile, high systolic blood pressure, high fasting glucose, greater
abdominal adiposity-as well as to a composite Metabolic Syndrome
variable. Telomere length was related only to elevated stress
hormones (catecholamines and cortisol). Thus, we propose that low
leukocyte telomerase constitutes an early marker of CVD risk,
possibly preceding shortened telomeres, that results in part from
chronic stress arousal. Possible cellular mechanisms by which low
telomerase may link stress and traditional risk factors to CVD are
discussed. These findings may implicate telomerase as a novel and
important mediator of the effects of psychological stress on
physical health and disease.