Being stressed is as damaging for your heart as smoking five cigarettes a day
People who reported feeling stressed were 27 per cent more likely to suffer a heart attack
Stress raises blood pressure and levels of 'bad' cholesterolResearchers liken the effect to smoking five cigarettes a day – and the effect gets worse as we age
18:45 GMT, 18 December 2012
Are you stressed If so, your chances of heading to an early grave are significantly higher.
New research has found that people who reported feeling anxious and overwhelmed were 27 per cent more likely to suffer a heart attack.
The study, led by Columbia University Medical Centre researchers, was published in the American Journal of Cardiology.
American researchers found people who reported feeling stressed were 27 per cent more likely to suffer a heart attack
The researchers looked at six previous studies where people had been asked about their perceived stress with questions such as ‘how stressed do you feel’ and ‘how often are you stressed’.
The groups were separated into high and low stress scores and then followed for 14 years to track the number of heart attacks .
Those who were the most stressed were 27 per cent more likely to have a heart attack.
The effect of stress was so profound that the researchers compared it to smoking more five cigarettes a day.
It was also likened to a 2.8mmol/l increase in LDL cholesterol and a 2.7/1.4 mmHg increase in blood pressure.
The British Heart Foundation says that people who are at high risk of, or already have, heart disease should aim for an LDL cholesterol level under 2 mmol/l.
Stress has also been found to increase levels of 'bad' cholesterol and blood pressure, which are risk factors for heart disease
Therefore, it says the figures suggest a 2.8mmol/l rise is more than double the recommended cholesterol levels for heart and stroke patients.
A healthy blood pressure reading should be below 140/90mmHg.
LDL cholesterol is considered a risk for heart disease that can lead to heart attack because it contributes for narrowing of the arteries that supply blood flow to the heart from plaque buildup, or atherosclerosis.
Higher blood pressure puts stress on the heart and contributes to stiffening of the arteries, making them more susceptible to blockage. It is thought to be responsible for 50 per cent of all heart attacks and strokes.
The researchers did further analysis to try to learn what might unpin the link between stress and heart disease. They found that while gender was not a significant factor, age was.
Among older people, the relationship between stress and CHD was stronger, suggesting the effects of stress compound over time.
They also noted that older people tend to have worse risk factors such as high blood pressure and raised cholesterol to begin with, and that stress may interact with those risk factors to trigger a heart attack.
‘These findings are significant because they are applicable to nearly everyone,’ said study author Safiya Richardson.
‘The key takeaway (message) is that how people feel is important for their heart health, so anything they can do to reduce stress may improve their heart health in the future.’
Her co-author, Donald Edmondson, assistant professor of behavioural medicine at CUMC added: ‘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.’
Heart disease is Britain’s biggest
killer. Around 270,000 people in the UK suffer a heart attack every year
and and nearly one in three die before they reach hospital.