It's been known for many years that emotional stress influences blood pressure, heart rate and blood flow. BHF Professor Andrew Steptoe and his team study the effect that emotional stress has on biological processes directly involved with heart disease.
You can find out more about the emotional impact of heart disease in our magazine Heart Matters
Socio-economics and heart disease
Professor Steptoe and team have found that people from lower socio-economic groups tend to suffer the biological effects of stress for longer than more affluent people, which in turn influences heart health. The researchers are now studying if a person’s socio-economic position, work stress, social support and social isolation might be important risk factors for developing heart disease.
Psychology of heart health
Professor Steptoe’s team has discovered that in some patients, intense episodes of anger and stress occur in the hours immediately before the onset of chest pain and they are now studying the biology behind these effects.
Professor Steptoe and his team will also monitor patients admitted to hospital with a heart attack to understand why some patients become depressed and anxious after the heart attack while others do not. They will also look at the way in which a person’s emotional response to the heart attack may influence the success of their rehabilitation.
Quality of life
Heart disease can have severe effects on later quality of life and Professor Steptoe’s team are studying the ways in which emotional factors and a patient’s understanding of their illness contributes to their later quality of life.
Promoting healthy behaviour change
Living an unhealthy lifestyle can lead to heart and circulatory disease. Professor Steptoe and his team are developing and testing new ways of counselling patients and encouraging them to change their lifestyle to make it healthier. They are also exploring how the Internet can be used most effectively to support a person’s behaviour change, not only by providing information but also by giving specific advice about how best to start and maintain healthier habits.
Professor Steptoe undertakes some research funded by the National Prevention Research Initiative, of which we are a partner.
Read more about the emotional impact of heart disease in an interview with Professor Steptoe in Heart Matters.