Does stress increase the risk of heart disease and stroke?

11 January 2017        

Category: BHF Comment

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Patients with heightened activity in the amygdala, a region of the brain involved in stress, could be at greater risk of heart disease and stroke, according to new research from Harvard Medical School. 

The finding, published today in the Lancet, could be a starting point in finding new ways to target and treat stress-related heart and circulatory disease.

Whilst more research is needed, this study sheds new light on risk factors for coronary heart disease. Smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes are well-known risk factors, but today's research suggests the possibility of a direct link between stress levels and heart disease.  

Our response to the study

Emily Reeve, our Senior Cardiac Nurse, said:

"The link between stress and increased risk of developing heart disease has previously focused on the lifestyle habits people take up when they feel stressed such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol and overeating.  

"Exploring the brain’s management of stress and discovering why it increases the risk of heart disease, will allow us to develop new ways of managing chronic psychological stress.

"This could lead to ensuring that patients who are at risk are routinely screened and that their stress is managed effectively."

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