Environmental Exposures, the Epigenome, and African American Women’s Health
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Stress is a common feature of modern life, but both the extent of exposure to stressors and the downstream effects of these stress exposures can vary considerably among individuals, communities, and populations. When individuals are exposed to repeated or chronic stress, wear and tear on the body can accumulate and manifest in many ways. The term “allostatic load” represents the physiological consequences of repeated or chronic exposure to environmental stressors and is linked to fluctuating and/or heightened neural or neuroendocrine responses. African American women are one population subgroup that has been identified as potentially having both an elevated allostatic load and an enhanced resilience to external factors. One mechanism by which environmental stressors may impact human health is via epigenetic remodeling of the genome. This review will focus on what is known about how different types of environmental stressors may affect the epigenome and explore links between epigenetic reprogramming and altered allostatic load and resilience as it pertains to African American women’s health.
KeywordsAllostatic load Epigenetics Stress
Grant support from the NIH (ES022030) awarded to J.E.O. is acknowledged.
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