Los Angeles: People who face racism may be at an increased risk of inflammation and chronic illness, a study has found. Inflammation serves to protect an organism from a health threat. However, if someone feels under threat for long periods of time, their health may suffer significantly with chronic inflammation. “If those genes remain active for an extended period of time, that can promote heart attacks, neurodegenerative diseases, and metastatic cancer,” said Steve Cole of the University of California, Los Angeles in the US. Also Read – ‘Hong Kong won’t rule out Chinese help over protests’The research, published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, shows that racist experiences increase inflammation in African American individuals, raising their risk of chronic illness. “We know discrimination is linked to health outcomes, but no one was sure exactly how it harmed health,” said April Thames, an associate professor at University of Southern California in the US. The survival of all living things depends on their ability to respond to infections, stresses and injuries. Such threats trigger an immune system response to fend off pathogens and repair damaged tissues. Also Read – Pak Army chief accompanies Imran at key meetings in ChinaA select group of genes are key to this defense mechanism, and inflammation is a sign that those genes are working to counter the threat or repair the damage. In previous studies, researchers had found that inflammatory responses are heightened among people in socially-marginalised, isolated groups. “We’ve seen this before in chronic loneliness, poverty, PTSD, and other types of adversity. But until now, nobody had looked at the effects of discrimination,” said Cole.