Is Heart Health Linked to Stress?
Up until now the distinct link between stress and arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries in human beings lacked direct clinical evidence, not anymore. The evidence only existed in animal studies but humans are mammals and now there is evidence the human heart and circulatory system is impacted by psychosocial stress.
Overall psychosocial stress has increased over the past 10 years with generally accepted consequences resulting in disorders like depression, but now such stress is also associated with a substantially higher number of heart attacks according to the Lancet.
The Lancet study from Harvard reports on brain activity in the area activated by stress.
This area of the brain is activated by strong emotional stimuli such as fear and pleasure. In these studies, the subjects had brain, bone marrow, spleen, and arterial scans. These scans showed researchers, out of the 300 participants, 22 people or 7.5% had higher stress induced brain activity with more white blood cell production, arterial inflammation and, most importantly, within four years, developed cardiovascular disease.
Again, more inflammation of arteries in a separate study of 13 post traumatic stress disorder patients. Showing a correlation between higher perceived stress levels and higher stress induced brain activity.
Is the opposite true then? In the absence of stress induced brain activity, is the risk of developing cardiovascular disease lowered?
Are people more likely to develop cardiovascular disease with higher stress induced brain activity during a resting state? Which brings us to mindfulness. The possibility that reducing stress through meditation could produce benefits that move beyond improving well-being to include benefiting our heart and cardiovascular health.
With just eight weeks of meditation, a reduction in stress correlates positively with decreases in stress induced brain activity. So, increasing your mindfulness could very well improve your cardiovascular health. It’s beginning to look like both the heart and the mind receive measurable benefit from meditation.
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*The content presented on this page is not intended to diagnose health problems or take the place of professional medical care.