Cardiology and Cardiothoracic Surgery/Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease
Stress & Heart Disease
Cardiovascular disease has a number of behavioral risk factors, some of which are related to stress. Studies from 1970s seem to support the notion that stress leads to the people who died of a sudden heart attack had experienced more stressful life events in the 6 months preceding the attack than did those who survived (Rahe, Romo, Bennett & Siltanen, 1974)
In 1897, Sir Simon Osler noted, "in the worry & strain of modern life, arterial degeneration is not only very common but develops at a relatively early age. For this, i believe that the high pressure at which men live, and the habit of working the machine to its maximum capacity are responsible for coronary disease,"
Medical researchers are not sure exactly how stress increases the risk of heart disease. Stress itself might be a risk factor, or it could be that high levels of stress make other risk factors (such as high cholesterol or high B.P.) worse. For example, if you are under stress, your blood pressure goes up, you may overeat, heart beat increase, you may exercise less & you may be more likely to smoke.
There has been a lot of research in this field over the last two decades and the results obtained show clearly that excessive stress can lead to the following
- Increase in Heart Rate
- Increase in B.P.
- Increased concentration of fat in blood.
- Increased Blood Sugar.
- Increased Cholesterol in Blood.
- Increased Blood Clotting.
- Increased deposition of fat & Cholesterol in the arteries.
- Spasm of Coronary & other arteries.
This shows us that stress in itself is such an influential risk factor that even in the absence of other risk factors it can become responsible for coronary heart disease. We can call stress the mother of all risk factors as it can singlehandedly give rise to various other factors.
There are many cases or people without high cholesterol, overweight and family history, having normal b.p. developing angina only because of excessive stress. The problem with stress is that there are no means of measuring it even with the latest scientific gadgets. There is not unit, such as ml, mm,mg, etc. to define it.Because of this reason modern science & cardiologists have specifically abstained from talking about stress in heart disease. It is now known that city dwellers have 3 times more chances of heart disease than those in small villages, the major reason being excessive stress in city life.
Research has also revealed that Type A personalities who are aggressive, always short of time, short tempered and stressful are much more prone to develop heart disease.Most of the young heart patients of modern day have Type A behavior.
It is obvious that without controlling stress we can not stop the progress of heart disease. Sudden stress or anger leads to the spasm of coronary arteries that precipitates sudden angina and heart attacks. This is the reason or mechanism why many people develop heart disease