We all know the journey to becoming a physician is neither short nor easy, so it’s not surprising to know that being a medical resident can have significant impacts on your health.
So, what is surprising, then? The length to which medical residency can affect your DNA!
According to a study published in Biological Psychiatry at the end of 2019, the DNA of medical residents in their first year can age six times faster than individuals at the same age who have pursed professions in other fields.
The study included over 200 medical resident volunteers who had DNA samples taken at the onset of their first year and again at the end of the year. Scientists tracked DNA telomeres which coat chromosome, providing a layer of protection. The fullness or size of telomere can be an indicator of health.
Telomere shrinkage can cause individuals to be prone to disease. Although shrinkage often occurs over time, with elderly individuals have the smallest telomeres of any age group on average, stressful life events or prolonged stress can also cause shrinkage.
At the end of the year, a pattern could be seen with telomeres shrinking in size, the more hours residents worked. Residents working 80 hours or more each week experienced the most significant shrinkage.
Despite the emergence of a pattern, there were some medical residents who, although they worked extensive hours each week, showed little to no telomere shrinkage. It’s possible that this group of individuals were able to manage their stress more effectively than those in the study who experienced greater shrinkage.
If you are entering a medical residency or even the medical field in general, you may consider adopting some stress-relieving practices to maintain good health. Consider learning to meditate, getting routine exercise, taking supplements and vitamins, and maintain a balanced diet. While the length of your telomeres is rooted in genetics, taking the actions outlined above may protect your chromosomes and prevent disease and illness from arising.