How the stress in your head affects the health of your heart

The mind-body connection is more than just a catchphrase: A new study finds that increased levels of stress are indeed linked to greater risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Researchers found that the people in the study who had more activity in an area of the brain that regulates the body’s response to stress and fear, called the amygdala, were more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those with less activity in the amygdala, according to the study.

“This study identifies, for the first time in animal models or humans, the region of the brain that links stress to the risk of heart attack or stroke,” lead study author Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said in a statement. [Heart of the Matter: 7 Things to Know About Your Ticker]

In addition, the researchers also linked increased activity in the amygdala to several processes that play a role in the development of heart disease, according to the study, published today (Jan. 11) in the journal The Lancet.

“While the link between stress and heart disease has long been established, the mechanism mediating that risk has not been clearly understood,” Tawakol said.

In the study, the researchers looked at two groups of patients, the first of which included nearly 300 adults ages 30 and up. At the start of the study, none of the patients had heart disease. The researchers performed brain scans on the patients using a technique that not only measured brain activity levels but also allowed the researchers to look at levels of blood vessel inflammation and bone marrow activity throughout the body.

During the average follow-up period of 3.7 years, 22 of the patients had a medical event related to heart disease, such as a heart attack, stroke or diagnosis of heart failure. The researchers found that increased activity levels in the amygdala at the beginning of the study were linked to a significantly higher risk of having a cardiovascular event later on… Read More>>

Source: Live Science

Send this to a friend