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Not Just Mental Health, Stress is Harmful For Your Heart Too

Myocardial ischemia is a situation when blood flow to our heart is reduced. It prevents the heart muscles from receiving enough oxygen.

Stress can be severely detrimental to our health. Psychological stress is an independent risk factor for heart attacks.

We are aware that high blood pressure, smoking, obesity etc. can lead to heart attacks. But another unlikely factor is stress. We need to take precautions to reduce stress as it can be severely detrimental to our health. A recent study published in the JAMA network has indicated this.

918 patients with CHD (coronary heart disease) took part in the study. They were made to go through a standardised mental stress test (public speaking task) and a conventional (exercise or pharmacological) stress test. The objective of these tests was to see if the patients develop myocardial ischemia. Myocardial ischemia is a situation when blood flow to our heart is reduced. It prevents the heart muscles from receiving enough oxygen.

The researchers took note of the developments in the participants for 4-9 years. The outcomes after this time interval were alarming. Several patients were found to be suffering from mental stress-induced ischemia, conventional stress ischemia and some were even diagnosed with both problems. The results indicated that the participants are at higher risk of suffering fatal and nonfatal heart attacks.

According to a report by The New York Times, Dr. Michael T Osborne explained that psychological stress is an independent risk factor for heart attacks. Dr Osborne participated in an analysis led by Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, both of whom work at Massachusetts General Hospital. They found that the brain’s fear center amygdala reacts to stress by activating the fight or flight response. The team explained that it triggers the release of hormones which over a period of time increase the levels of body fat, blood pressure and insulin resistance.

The team further noted that stress leads to inflammation in the arteries, increases blood clotting and impairs the functioning of blood vessels. This leads to a condition called atherosclerosis which is the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and around your artery walls.

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