Living a busy, stressful life doesn’t just leave you feeling fatigued at the end of a long day – it can also have serious effects on your heart. A new study has discovered a connection between a person’s stress levels in the brain to their cardiovascular health, giving us greater insight into why those particular individuals are more prone to heart trouble.
Researchers led by Ahmed Tawakol, M.D., co-director of the cardiac MR PET CT program at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-author of the study, were the first ever to use medical imaging as a way to find a connection between stress and arterial problems. By monitoring biochemical activity in the amygdala – that’s the brain’s ‘fear’ center – they noted that increased activity led to an increase in arterial inflammation. This response by the immune system could lead to cardiovascular events including heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
“Our study illuminates, for the first time, a relationship between activation of neural tissues—those associated with fear and stress—and subsequent heart disease events,” said Tawakol. “There is a need to develop greater knowledge in terms of the mechanism that translates stress into cardiovascular disease risk, given the prevalence and potency of stress as a risk factor.”
It’s nothing new to hear that stress is dangerous for us. What is revealing is just how much more damaging it is than most people believe. Tawakol adds that the risk of stress on the heart is now the same – if not greater – than smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure. That’s huge.
Here’s what Richard Becker, an American Heart Association spokesman, had to say on the matter. “After there’s an earthquake or a tsunami, the incidence of heart attacks over the next six to eight weeks increases substantially,” he said, citing prior research, “The same thing happens with human disasters, with terrorism, particularly if it’s on a large scale.”
The first steps in protecting your heart should be to assess your stress levels and look for ways to reduce and/or manage it in a healthier way. At Acupuncture & Wellness Center, all patients go through a thorough assessment of lifestyle and are offered suggestions and techniques to help lead a healthier, more vibrant way of living.
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