The link between stress and heart disease could have been discovered by scientists at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Individuals with increased activity in the amygdala, which is caused by stress, have a greater risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. The heightened activity in the amygdala leads to increased activity in the bone marrow and arterial inflammation leading to a heart attack. The study was published in The Lancet on Wednesday. It might open the possibility for new treatments to treat stress-related cardiovascular problems.

“About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every four deaths,” as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Image credit: Black Girl Health.

“While the link between stress and heart disease has long been established, the mechanism mediating that risk has not been clearly understood,” said Dr. Ahmed Tawakol from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School “Our results provide a unique insight into how stress may lead to cardiovascular disease.” Tawakol is also the lead study author.

The effects of stress on cardiovascular health

It is not strange to hear that an enormous amount of stress has a negative impact on our bodies and especially in our hearts. However, the link between stress and blood pressure or heart disease could not be accurately identified until now.

The scientists analyzed two groups of patients, one of them included about 300 participants aged 30 and up. At the beginning, any patient had had a heart disease. They scanned their brains measuring brain activity levels, bone marrow activity and the level of blood vessel inflammations. The study lasted 3.7 years, and during that period 22 patients had a medical event associated with the hearth, including stroke, heart attack, peripheral arterial disease or health failure.

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The study was published on January 11 in the Lancet. Image credit:

Those who were involved in these events were actually among the people with the highest amygdala activity levels at the beginning of the study. As well, they noticed that the higher the activity level was in the amygdala, the sooner the heart problem occurred.

According to the study, when a person has a great amount of activity in the amygdala it sends a signal to the bone marrow to produce extra white blood cells. These cells act on the arteries driving them to develop more plaques which cause them to get inflamed. This inflammation increases the risk of stroke or heart disease.

Previous research has already established a link between stress and higher bone marrow activity in other animals, but it was not clear if it was applicable to human beings. Another survey found that activity in the amygdala was increased in people with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or anxiety.

This research comes as a guide to establish a clear link between stress, the bone marrow, and heart disease, including also new treatments for people with such problems. However, despite how successful and revealing this study could be, more research need to be done.

Source: The Christian Post