Stress pushes up heart risk by 27 percent
The feeling of acute stress is linked with a 27 percent greater risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), say findings from a new meta-analysis of six studies involving nearly 120,000 people.
Participants, asked about their perceived stress (how stressed do you feel or how often are you stressed), scored either high or low. Researchers then followed them for an average of 14 years to compare the number of heart attacks and CHD deaths between the two groups.
CHD is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. It is caused by a build-up of plaque in the arteries, which can lead to their hardening, or atherosclerosis.
CHD is the leading cause of death in the US for men and women, killing more than 385,000 people every year, the American Journal of Cardiology reported.
"While it is generally accepted that stress is related to heart disease, this is the first meta-analytic review of the association of perceived stress and CHD," said senior study author Donald Edmondson, assistant professor of behavioural medicine at Columbia University Medical Centre (CUMC).
"This is the most precise estimate of that relationship, and it gives credence to the widely held belief that general stress is related to heart health."
"In comparison with traditional cardiovascular risk factors, high stress provides a moderate increase in the risk of CHD, equivalent to puffing five more cigarettes per day," added Edmondson, according to a CUMC statement.
"These findings are significant because they are applicable to nearly everyone," said study co-author Safiya Richardson, who collaborated with Edmondson on the paper while attending the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.