Psychological stress can leave the heart more prone to developing arrhythmias or electrical instability and the blood more prone to clotting. Stress appears to raise heart rate and rapidly hike blood pressure, increasing the hearts need for oxygen-rich blood, Sheps said. Yet less oxygen is supplied, in part because coronary arteries constrict, impeding blood flow. Doctors are concerned that this reaction to stress in the laboratory is simply a snapshot of how patients respond to the stress of life on a daily basis.
An estimated 10 percent of all patients with coronary disease experience detectable mental stress-induced reductions in blood flow to the heart. In some subsets of patients the phenomenon may be even more prevalent, involving up to 40 percent of these patients.
UF researchers studied 148 patients with coronary artery disease who were on average about 65 years old. Participants were asked to perform a public speaking test designed to induce stress. Images were taken of blood flow to the heart at rest and during the speech task. Blood samples also were collected and analyzed for five common gene variations.
About a fourth of the patients experienced mental stress-induced reduced blood flow to the heart, and about two-thirds of them harbored a particular variation of the adrenergic beta-1 receptor genotype that was associated with a three-fold increased risk of this phenomenon, said Mustafa Hassan, M.D., the studys lead author and a research fellow in UFs division of cardiovascular medicine. This receptor typically helps the body respond to stress by regulating blood pressure and heart rate, but a common variability in its gene may make certain patients more vulnerable to the effects of psychological stress.
The study was funded by the Nati
|Contact: Melanie Fridl Ross|
University of Florida