Stressed? Maybe You Should Have Your Heart Checked
Those who thought pressure was affecting their health twice as likely to suffer heart attack, study says
WebMD News Archive
By Steven Reinberg
THURSDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) -- People who think stress is affecting their health may be setting themselves up for a heart attack, a new study contends.
The researchers found that these people had double the risk of a heart attack compared with people who didn't think stress was harming their health.
"People's perceptions about the impact of stress on their health are likely to be correct," said study author Hermann Nabi, a senior research associate at the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health at INSERM in Villejuif, France.
"They may need to take actions when they feel that it is the case," he added.
These findings have both clinical and theoretical implications, Nabi said.
"From a clinical perspective, they suggest that complaints of adverse impact of stress on health should not be ignored in clinical settings as they may indicate increased risk of developing coronary heart disease," he said.
From a theoretical perspective, the findings imply that the perceived impact of stress on health is a valid concept that should be considered in future studies aimed at examining the association between stress and health outcomes, Nabi added.
The report was published June 27 in the online edition of the European Heart Journal.
Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that "stress and reactions to stressful situations have been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease in many studies."
However, few studies have looked at whether an individual's perception of stress is associated with cardiovascular outcomes, he said.
And it's not clear if reducing stress would affect the risk for heart attack, Fonarow said.
"Further studies are needed to determine whether stress reduction or other risk reduction strategies can reduce cardiovascular events in men and women who perceive they are under stress that is adversely impacting their health," he said.
For the study, Nabi's team collected data on more than 7,000 men and women who took part in the Whitehall II study, which has followed London-based civil servants since 1985.
Participants were asked how much they felt that stress or pressure in their lives had affected their health. Based on their answers, they were placed into one of three groups: "not at all," "slightly or moderately," or "a lot or extremely."
Participants were also asked about their levels of stress and other lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking, diet and physical activity.
The researchers also collected medical information, such as blood pressure, diabetes status and weight, and other data, including marital status, age, sex, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.
Over 18 years of follow-up, there were 352 heart attacks or deaths from heart attack.
After taking all of these factors into account, the investigators found those who said their health was a "lot or extremely" affected by stress had more than double the risk of a heart attack compared with those who said stress had no effect on their health.