How Stress Can Cause Heart Attacks and Strokes
March 22, 2017
A new study has shown that when the fear center of the brain is more active, the chances of having a heart attack or stroke increases. The research indicates that stress is not only emotionally upsetting, but can directly affect a person’s chances of suffering a traumatic health event.
Stress is generally understood as a state of emotional or mental strain or tension that comes as a result from difficult demands. The fear center of the brain acts as a sensor that inputs potential threats whether they are linked to fear, being overwhelmed or anger. In other words, the fear center sends impulses throughout the body when a person feels stressed.
A team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School conducted the study on the link between fear center activity and the incidence of heart attacks and strokes. They found that when the fear center is lit up during a brain scan, the risk having a heart attack or stroke in the next three to four years goes up. They also found that people with high levels of stress had larger amounts of inflammation in their arteries, an indicator of heart disease. Active results also pointed towards a higher amount of bone marrow activity, which the researchers noted is an indicator of blood clotting. Blood clots are major contributors to heart attacks and strokes.
The results of the study showed how in the future, chronic stress could be considered an influential risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Some other experts in the field have gotten on board with the study’s results and are intrigued by the findings of a link between emotional stress and cardiac events.
Previous studies have shown that emotional stress can be damaging to health because it can contribute to unhealthy habits, like smoking, drinking heavily, avoiding exercise and a poor diet. Other studies have touched on how stress, depression and even anger can be risk factors for stroke, but the reasons behind the connection was not clearly explained through scientific evidence.
Before this study, the assertion that stress can increase the chances of a cardiac event was made but without conducting brain scans that showed that direct relationship. This most recent study, however, is the first one that shows what is happening in the brain and directly correlating those results to cardiac events that occur within the next three to four years. In other words, previous assertions were not incorrect but were further developed by the team of researchers.
One limit of the study was that many of the participants had cancer, and with chemotherapy and other forms of treatment there is sometimes damage to the heart. The researchers commented that in future studies, they hope to include more people with no signs of disease to make the results more generalized. That said, the study did include people without cancer who had post-traumatic stress disorder, and the findings applied to them in the exact same way that it did for the others.
Strokes and heart attacks have slightly different warning signs than one another. Heart attacks can be precipitated by an uncomfortable feeling of pressure or fullness in the chest, pain in the arms, neck, jaw or back, shortness of breath and cold sweats, lightheadedness and nausea. Strokes are typically accompanied by a weakness or numbness of the face, leg or arm, most typically on one side of the body. Other symptoms include a sudden difficulty walking, loss of balance, blurred vision or trouble speaking. If you have any questions or concerns about how stress could be affecting your cardiac health, it is best to consult directly with your doctor.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Discuss the Dangers of Stress
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