The release of "danger" molecules in response to significant periods of mental stress early in life may leave young people at lifelong risk of cardiovascular disease. They know mental stress is bad for the cardiovascular system.

They want to know more about how it's bad. They think one answer is DAMPs, or damage (AKA "danger") associated molecular patterns. Stressed and dying cells regularly empty their contents or DAMPs.

Their job is to signal your body that there is danger and to do something about it. DAMPs help heal a knife wound to the chest. But at a certain point, the body has mechanisms to eliminate what becomes inflammation-producing trash.

High Levels Of DAMP

And there is increasing evidence that high DAMP levels for extended periods can overwhelm that natural system, which can lead to chronic inflammation and a host of associated health problems, including cardiovascular disease.

Mental Stress

They know that mental stress has a physiological impact, which includes things like transiently increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. He hypothesizes that, like with high blood pressure, significant mental stress also creates a vicious cycle by stressing cells and elevating DAMPs, inflammation and blood pressure

Early life stress increases oxidative stress and mitochondrial damage, but studies have not been done to determine if mitochondrial DNA levels remain elevated. HSP60 is a member of a family of proteins typically associated with protecting cells from stress but associated as well with a variety of diseases, including cancer.


HSP60, which is known to aid the replication of mitochondrial DNA, also has been associated with inflammation, low socioeconomic status, social isolation, and psychological stress, and elevated levels have been found in patients with borderline hypertension.

Blood Pressure

However, the long-term impact on blood pressure is unknown, and their study is the first to examine the link between elevated HSP60 and early life stress. They want to know if DAMPs are involved in an increased cardiovascular risk over time and whether race or gender influence their impact.

Another question the investigators want to answer is whether repeated and ongoing psychological stress can get and keep DAMP levels up. The scientists hope to emerge at the end of the studies with new, targeted prevention and treatment strategies that can do the same for young people. Higher blood levels of DAMPs in childhood may also serve as a biomarker for future cardiovascular risk.

Particularly when you think of the physiological consequences, like hypertension or stroke, heart attack, kidney damage, we think you should put DAMPs in the picture. Early life stress can result in increased inflammation a contributor to many diseases from high blood pressure to cardiovascular disease and cancer that persists in adulthood.

Systolic Blood Pressure

Childhood blood pressures in the country are generally edging upward. A study from 1988-2000 showed the top number, or systolic blood pressure, an indicator of the pressure against your artery wall when the heart beats, edged up 1.4 points. 

Elevated levels of either are a factor in diagnosing high blood pressure and increased cardiovascular risk. Studies have shown that blood pressure levels track from childhood to adulthood.