A healthy lifestyle has to include stress control. The research showing the negative effects of chronic stress on the body is overwhelming.
A Healthy Lifestyle Keeps Stress Under Control
A new study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital provides more evidence about the role of stress in causing heart disease. The research showed that stressed out people have more activity in the part of their brain called the amygdala. The function of the amygdala is to regulate the body’s response to stress and fear.
Two New Studies Show the Importance of a Healthy Lifestyle
Two different experiments proved that activity in this area of the brain increases with stress and can cause heart attacks or strokes.
One study looked at nearly 300 adults ages 30 and up. None of these participants had heart disease at the start of the study. The researchers conducted brain scans on the patients. The scans measured not only brain activity levels but also levels of blood vessel inflammation and bone marrow activity throughout the body.
The patients were followed for almost 4 years. During that time, 22 of them had a heart attack or stroke or were diagnosed with heart failure.
It was discovered that the study participants who later developed heart disease had increased activity levels in the amygdala at the beginning of the study. The patients with the higher levels were at a significantly higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke on. They also found out that the highest levels of brain activity were linked to having a heart attack sooner.
Another important finding was that the people who developed heart disease showed greater amounts of inflammation in the blood vessels and higher levels of activity in the parts of the bone marrow where new blood cells are made. Both of these are linked to atherosclerosis, which increases the person’s risk for heart disease.
Another study involved 13 people with chronic stress disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. These patients answered questions about their perceived stress levels. The researchers also did brain scans to measure the levels of activity in their amygdalae and measured the patients’ blood vessel inflammation levels.
They found that the patients’ perceived stress levels were linked to increased activity in the amygdala as well as increased levels of inflammation in the blood vessels.
The Researchers’ Advice on a Healthy Lifestyle
The new study “provides more evidence of a heart-brain connection” by showing a link between activity in the amygdala, which is a marker of stress, and later cardiovascular disease, according to Zahi Fayad, a senior author of the study and the director of the Translational and Molecular Imaging Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine.
“This study identifies, for the first time in animal models or humans, the region of the brain that links stress to the risk of heart attack or stroke,” lead study author Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said in a statement.
The researchers’ advice is to use stress reduction techniques to reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
Click here to read more about why a healthy lifestyle is important to prevent heart disease.