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9 Steps to Disrupt the Health Effects of Systemic Racism

The objective of this series is to help people of color to recognize the subtle and not-so-subtle ways systemic racism impacts health and to empower a disruption of those effects.

Researchers have been examining the link between chronic stress and DNA. They have found that the protective casing at the ends of chromosomes known as telomeres shorten when subject to chronic stress. Shortened and frayed telomeres lead to cellular aging, disease and premature death.

In 2009, Elizabeth Blackburn and Carolyn Greider were awarded the Nobel Prize for their discovery of how the chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase, which counteracts damage to telomeres.

Chronic stress is now on the map as one of the most consistent predictors of shorter telomere length. The type of stress determines how big its effect is. Exposures to multiple early life adversities have the largest effects.

A study, led by Dr. David H. Chae, an associate professor at Auburn University examined how changes in racial discrimination affect the telomeres over time.

African Americans who reported more racial discrimination over a 10-year period showed signs of faster aging at the cellular level during the same time frame. Findings from the study are available in the National Institutes of Health Library - Auburn Study.

“This study adds to evidence that racial discrimination contributes to accelerated physiologic weathering and health declines among African Americans through its impact on biological systems and effects on telomere attrition,” reported Chae. Read more here.

Meditation helps to combat chronic stress and create a level of conscious awareness that supports healthy lifestyle choices, such as those outlined in the 9 Steps video.

~Gwendolyn Mitchell


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