A recent study by The Lancet suggests that stress and increased risk of heart attack can be linked as a result of the effect stress has on a deep-lying region of the brain.
The study was done on 300 people and found out that those with the highest possibility of developing cardiovascular disease had an increased activity in the amygdala.
The US researchers noted that just like smoking and high blood pressure causes heart attack, stress is equally a risk factor not to ignore. That makes it important, as the heart experts explain, to help stressed patients manage their condition.
For a long time now, experts have always associated emotional stress with CVD. However, they have been unable to explain the existence of such a link.
This study, led by a team from Harvard Medical School, points to heightened activity in the amygdala – an area of the brain that processes emotions such as fear and anger – as helping to explain the link, reports BBC Health.
According to the recent study, amygdala signals reach the bone which is triggered to produce excess white blood cells. These then act on the arteries triggering an inflammatory. The effect of this is angina, strokes and heart attacks.
For that matter, stressed people can greatly be investigated for cardiovascular events using this section of the brain.
However, the research experts were quick to add that this study needs a confirmation of the chain of events.
The Lancet study involved comparing two separate studies.
In the first study, the brain, bone marrow, arteries and spleen of 293 patients was scanned. The lives of these patients were then tracked for 4 years to observe for the development of VCD. At the end of the study period, 22 patients were found to have developed cardiovascular disease and they all had one thing in common. All these patients had a higher activity in the amygdala.
The second study was done on only 13 patients. These were investigated to try link stress levels and inflammation in the body.
The finding was that patients with a high stress level also had high amygdala activity and inflammation could evidently be seen.
“Our results provide a unique insight into how stress may lead to cardiovascular disease. This raises the possibility that reducing stress could produce benefits that extend beyond an improved sense of psychological wellbeing.” Said Dr Ahmed Tawakol, lead author and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.