Listening to your body could offer insights into the health of your immune system, suggests a study in Psychosomatic Medicine.

People who rated their overall health as excellent were less likely to become sick after being exposed to a cold virus than those with poorer self-rated health, the study found. A history of having colds was unrelated to illness susceptibility.

Poor self-rated health could be a marker for immunocompetence, or the capacity of a person’s immune system to resist disease, the researchers said. It may be possible to detect physical sensations that are actually symptoms of low-grade infections or other diseases, they suggest.

Previous studies have associated poorer self-rated health with higher white blood cell counts, a marker for infection, and inflammatory proteins called cytokines, the researchers said.

The latest study, at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, used data from 360 volunteers, age 18 to 55 years old, who participated in two viral-challenge studies between 2000 and 2011. Over a two-week period, the subjects underwent physical exams and blood tests, personality evaluations, and daily assessments of exercise, sleep and other health-related practices. Twenty percent rated their health as excellent, 53 percent as very good, 25 percent as good, and 2 percent as fair.

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