Do you know what telomeres are? If not, you should. They directly impact your health (and your lifespan). Shortened telomeres are bad news, and stress is a huge factor. Why? Inflammation. When you experience stress, especially the long-term and ongoing type, your body responds by producing higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that regulates everything from your metabolism to your immune response. When you have high levels of cortisol, your body’s inflammation response is triggered, and inflammation has been linked to everything from gum disease to heart failure. Scary? YES.
Even though you can’t always control the chaos in your surroundings—at work, at home, with family—what you can regulate is how you respond to stress. Out of all the studies on stress and physiological health, one common coping mechanism shows up over and over again: Mindfulness. And you don’t need a prescription for it.
New research from Carnegie Mellon University provides a window into the brain changes that link mindfulness meditation training with health in stressed adults. Published in Biological Psychiatry, the study shows that mindfulness meditation training, compared to relaxation training, reduces Interleukin-6, an inflammatory health biomarker, in high-stress, unemployed adults.
The biological health-related benefits occur because mindfulness meditation training fundamentally alters brain network functional connectivity patterns and the brain changes statistically explain the improvements in inflammation.
“We’ve now seen that mindfulness meditation training can reduce inflammatory biomarkers in several initial studies, and this new work sheds light into what mindfulness training is doing to the brain to produce these inflammatory health benefits,” said David Creswell, lead author and associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.