A team of researchers from Harvard Medical School has found compelling evidence suggesting people who battle with stress most often than others are also more susceptible to succumbing to heart attacks and other heart-related conditions. The scientists observed and analyzed behavioral patterns of approximately 300 individuals with high activity in the amygdala region of the brain.
The amygdala is the part of the brain in charge of processing feelings such as anger and anxiety which are, in turn, responsible for elevated levels of stress. Furthermore, the risk of developing any kind of heart disease is even greater in smokers, or past smokers, since multiple other studies have shown in the past that the bad habit stands at the core of high blood pressure.
However, even though scientists are aware emotional stress leads to increased risks of cardiovascular disease, the men of science are not entirely sure about the mechanism at play that ultimately leads to the death of the patient.
One explanation is that when subjected to intense activity, the amygdala signals the bone marrow to produce unhealthy levels of white cells. The effect of more white cells than needed in the blood stream causes arteries and blood vessels to become inflamed, ultimately leading to angina, heart attacks, and strokes.
Even though the scenario seems pretty self-explanatory, the team of researchers deemed this theory only hypothetical and said more research is needed in order to determine the right chain of events that ultimately contributed to the patient’s death.
In order to link high levels of activity in the amygdala to stress and cardiovascular disease, the scientists performed two separate studies. One of the surveys focused on brain activity, blood vessels, especially arteries, spleen, and bone marrow. Out of 293 subjects who were closely observed over the course of four years, 22 patients developed cardiovascular disease. According to the researchers, they were also the ones who exhibited the highest levels of amygdala activity while participating in the study.
The second paper contained the authors’ notes on the stress-levels-inflammation-in-the-body relationship of 13 subjects. As it turned out, the patients who reported high levels of stress also displayed increased amygdala activity and more inflammation of the blood vessels.
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