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How stress can harm the heart

A new study has shed light on how our stress levels are affecting our heart health.

How stress can harm the heart

We know the pressure stress places on our mental health, but what about our internal workings?

A new study, presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 65th Annual Scientific Session, has revealed a link between brain activity and our arteries.

Researchers looked at data collected from brain and artery scans of 293 people. Their findings revealed interesting information about their amygdala – the part of the brain where emotions are processed. They found that stress activity in this area resulted in an increase of inflammation elsewhere around the body – namely the arteries.

This is notable because arterial inflammation is an important driver of atherosclerotic disease, the major cause of heart attacks and stroke,” says study author Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, co-director of the cardiac MR PET CT program at Massachusetts General Hospital.

An astounding 35 per cent of people who showed high levels of stress, suffered a heart-related health event, during the course of the five-year study. Out of the participants who showed lower levels of stress, only five per cent suffered from an adverse heart issue.

This study demonstrates, for the first time, that metabolic activity within a key component of the brain’s fear network predicts the development of [heart disease] in humans, independently of established risk factors,” says Tawakol.

Although the study was only small and in its initial stages, researchers hope the results will lead to further investigation into the link between stress and the brain’s fear network.

 

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