Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States today, among both men and women. And now scientists are saying there is a certain recipe for disaster that many people fall victim to, which often leads to a heart attack.

CBS news reports on the new information. The recipe researchers are referring to is stress, and depression, mixed with heart disease.

How was the study conducted?

Researchers looked at around 4,500 patients with heart disease and how stress affected each of them. They have deemed the recipe for disaster a ‘psychosocial perfect storm’.

The lead researcher is Ms. Alcantara, an associate research scientist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. She commented on the study saying,

“The combination of high stress and high depression symptoms may be particularly harmful for adults with heart disease during an early vulnerability period. We found that those who reported both high stress and high depression were 48 percent more likely than those with low stress and low depression to have another heart attack or die in the first 2.5 years of follow-up.”

Researchers found the likelihood of dying in the first 2.5 years after a heart attack to be quite alarming.

What was life like for people with depression and stress?

Researchers said these patients were likely to report recent crying spells, and feeling they that they have to endure overwhelming difficulties and cannot handle personal issues.

What can people do to remedy these issues?

Experts are suggesting behavioral treatments along with exercise and therapy in order to change the habits that cause people stress and depression. They hope that this will prevent a heart attack.

Fox news also reported on the study and how it was conducted.

“Between 2003 and 2007, participants had in-home examinations and completed stress and depression questionnaires. For example, they reported how often during the previous week they felt depressed, lonely or cried, and how often during the past months they felt overwhelmed or like life was out of their control,” explained Fox.

The researchers followed up with patients for around six years. Almost fifteen hundred patients unfortunately died by the end of the study. The people with high stress and depression were a whopping fifty percent more likely to have a heart attack.

The National Institutes of Health actually recently reported that coronary heart disease is still the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States today. Experts are saying this can come down substantially with medication and lifestyle changes.

Researchers are planning to do more analysis in this area to figure out how psychosocial factors like these are connected to one’s heart health. Dr. Chowienczyk, who was not part of the Circulation study, offered an opinion on this.

He said, “During periods of stress, the part of the nervous system that regulate the heart and other organs makes the heart beat harder and faster causing blood pressure to increase, a potential cause of heart attacks and strokes.”

Experts also said that people with high stress and blood pressure release less of a molecule that the body uses to open blood vessels wider so that blood circulation has a better flow.


Gerry Oginski
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