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Stress Tied to Heart Disease Risk

Thursday, 20 December 2012 10:23 AM

Feeling stressed out? How you answer that question could predict your risk of heart disease, new research suggests.
An analysis of studies, by Columbia University Medical Center researchers, found individuals who perceived the level of stress in their lives as “high” were far more likely to develop or die from coronary heart disease (CHD).
The review, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, included six major studies involving nearly 120,000 people and found high stress levels raise heart risks as much as high LDL “bad” cholesterol, high blood pressure, or smoking five more cigarettes per day.
"While it is generally accepted that stress is related to heart disease, this is the first meta-analytic review of the association of perceived stress and incident CHD," said researcher Donald Edmondson, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at CUMC. "This is the most precise estimate of that relationship, and it gives credence to the widely held belief that general stress is related to heart health.”
SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
Co-researcher Safiya Richardson, M.D., a resident at North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System in Manhasset, said the findings should be a wake-up call for most people.
"These findings are significant because they are applicable to nearly everyone," said Dr. Richardson. "The key takeaway is that how people feel is important for their heart health, so anything they can do to reduce stress may improve their heart health in the future."
The six studies included in the analysis involved surveys that asked participants "How stressed do you feel?" or "How often are you stressed?" Respondents scored either high or low, and were then monitored for an average of 14 years for the rate of heart attacks and CHD deaths. The results showed individuals who felt high levels of stress were 27 percent more likely to suffer from or die from CHD, a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart.
CHD is typically caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries — known as hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. It is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 385,000 people annually.
Dr. Edmondson said the review’s findings indicate older people tend to have other CHD risk factors, such as high blood pressure, and that stress may compound the dangers.
"The next step is to conduct randomized trials to assess whether broad population-based measures to decrease stress are cost-effective,” he said. "We also need to ask why we found this association between stress and CHD … what biological components or mechanisms are involved, and what is the role of environment or lifestyle [e.g., diet, alcohol and drug use, exercise], and how best to moderate these factors to lower the risk of CHD."
The research was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.
SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.

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People who say they experience high levels of stress are more likely to develop or die from heart disease, researchers find.
Thursday, 20 December 2012 10:23 AM
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