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      The Social Determinants of Health: It's Time to Consider the Causes of the Causes

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      Public Health Reports

      SAGE Publications

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          Most cited references 78

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          Central role of the brain in stress and adaptation: links to socioeconomic status, health, and disease.

          The brain is the key organ of stress reactivity, coping, and recovery processes. Within the brain, a distributed neural circuitry determines what is threatening and thus stressful to the individual. Instrumental brain systems of this circuitry include the hippocampus, amygdala, and areas of the prefrontal cortex. Together, these systems regulate physiological and behavioral stress processes, which can be adaptive in the short-term and maladaptive in the long-term. Importantly, such stress processes arise from bidirectional patterns of communication between the brain and the autonomic, cardiovascular, and immune systems via neural and endocrine mechanisms underpinning cognition, experience, and behavior. In one respect, these bidirectional stress mechanisms are protective in that they promote short-term adaptation (allostasis). In another respect, however, these stress mechanisms can lead to a long-term dysregulation of allostasis in that they promote maladaptive wear-and-tear on the body and brain under chronically stressful conditions (allostatic load), compromising stress resiliency and health. This review focuses specifically on the links between stress-related processes embedded within the social environment and embodied within the brain, which is viewed as the central mediator and target of allostasis and allostatic load.
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            Socioeconomic disparities in health in the United States: what the patterns tell us.

            We aimed to describe socioeconomic disparities in the United States across multiple health indicators and socioeconomic groups. Using recent national data on 5 child (infant mortality, health status, activity limitation, healthy eating, sedentary adolescents) and 6 adult (life expectancy, health status, activity limitation, heart disease, diabetes, obesity) health indicators, we examined indicator rates across multiple income or education categories, overall and within racial/ethnic groups. Those with the lowest income and who were least educated were consistently least healthy, but for most indicators, even groups with intermediate income and education levels were less healthy than the wealthiest and most educated. Gradient patterns were seen often among non-Hispanic Blacks and Whites but less consistently among Hispanics. Health in the United States is often, though not invariably, patterned strongly along both socioeconomic and racial/ethnic lines, suggesting links between hierarchies of social advantage and health. Worse health among the most socially disadvantaged argues for policies prioritizing those groups, but pervasive gradient patterns also indicate a need to address a wider socioeconomic spectrum-which may help garner political support. Routine health reporting should examine socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparity patterns, jointly and separately.
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              Telomeres and aging.

              Telomeres play a central role in cell fate and aging by adjusting the cellular response to stress and growth stimulation on the basis of previous cell divisions and DNA damage. At least a few hundred nucleotides of telomere repeats must "cap" each chromosome end to avoid activation of DNA repair pathways. Repair of critically short or "uncapped" telomeres by telomerase or recombination is limited in most somatic cells and apoptosis or cellular senescence is triggered when too many "uncapped" telomeres accumulate. The chance of the latter increases as the average telomere length decreases. The average telomere length is set and maintained in cells of the germline which typically express high levels of telomerase. In somatic cells, telomere length is very heterogeneous but typically declines with age, posing a barrier to tumor growth but also contributing to loss of cells with age. Loss of (stem) cells via telomere attrition provides strong selection for abnormal and malignant cells, a process facilitated by the genome instability and aneuploidy triggered by dysfunctional telomeres. The crucial role of telomeres in cell turnover and aging is highlighted by patients with 50% of normal telomerase levels resulting from a mutation in one of the telomerase genes. Short telomeres in such patients are implicated in a variety of disorders including dyskeratosis congenita, aplastic anemia, pulmonary fibrosis, and cancer. Here the role of telomeres and telomerase in human aging and aging-associated diseases is reviewed.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Public Health Reports
                Public Health Reports
                SAGE Publications
                0033-3549
                1468-2877
                January 2014
                January 2014
                : 129
                : 1_suppl2
                : 19-31
                Article
                10.1177/00333549141291S206
                © 2014

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