Everyone knows that stress is not good for them, but how does it affect the heart specifically?
New research published in the Telegraph suggests that stress can lead to inflammation of the blood vessels in the heart, which can increase the risk of heart attacks.
This is the first time scientists believe there is a direct biological link between stress and inflammation of blood vessels which can lead to heart attacks.
Stress triggers our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism, and this sends a surge of adrenalin to help the heart pump harder and increase blood flow to enable the body to fight or run when encountering a perceived threat.
When a person is stressed, the immune system is sent into overdrive, and produces an increased number of white blood cells. This causes inflammation in the arteries. If arteries are already thickened with plaque, this can have very serious consequences.
An already damaged artery, that becomes more inflamed, can produce lesions which can break away, leaving a wound that blood platelets and clotting proteins rush to fill, which is dangerous.
Previously it was known that a high white blood cell count could indicate inflammation but Dr Nahrendorf’s team believes it is actually triggering inflammation.
Clearly being stressed is not good for the health, but stresses occur naturally, and are part of every day life. They are unavoidable, but there are things that can be done to reduce stress, and alleviate it when symptoms hit.