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Stress damages our hearts
As is well known, stress is not good for our health. Researchers have now found that stress also significantly increases the risk of developing heart disease.
A recent joint study by the University of Iceland and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden showed that stress and stress-related illnesses massively increase the risk of heart disease. The results of the investigation were published in the English-language journal "BMJ".
What triggers stress?
A high stress level damages the health of our heart. For example, losing people to a loved one increases the risk of heart disease by 64 percent. People suffering from stress-related disorders, such as PTSD, are particularly at risk in the first year of a traumatic event. The researchers examined patients with stress-related illnesses, a group of psychiatric illnesses that are triggered by a stressful life event. Such events can include grief for a loved one, diagnosis of a deadly disease, natural disaster, or violent assault.
Data from 136,637 people were evaluated
Previous studies examining the link between stress and heart disease focused mainly on war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, the new study should find out how stressful life events affect the general public. For this, the data of 136,637 people were analyzed, who were diagnosed with a stress-related disorder between 1987 and 2013. The patients in the study were compared to their siblings. There were a total of 171,314 siblings.
Other reasons for stress-related illnesses
Another example, besides PTSD, is an acute stress response in which people develop anxiety, flashbacks or palpitations after a stressful event. A so-called adjustment disorder occurs when a person experiences more stress than would be expected in response to a simple problem such as a change of job.
Risk increased by 64 percent for one year
Each patient was also compared to ten randomly selected people of the same sex and year of birth who were free from stress-related disorders or heart disease. The results suggest that stressed people are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease when faced with a traumatic life event. The risk is highest in the first year after the event. Those diagnosed with stress-related disorder at an early age were also more at risk. The study shows a clear link between stress-related illnesses and a higher risk of heart disease, report the authors of the study. The results persisted even after adjustment to patient education, medical history, and other psychiatric conditions.
More research is needed
Most people experience psychological trauma or stressful life events like the death of a loved one at some point in their lives. The study results indicate that such adversity can lead to an increased risk of several serious diseases and increased mortality, the researchers explain. However, since the current study is an observational study, the causal relationship cannot be clearly established and further research on this topic is urgently required. (as)