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How does stress increase your risk for stroke and heart attack?
Date:5/5/2014

Philadelphia, PA, May 5, 2014 Scientists have shown that anger, anxiety, and depression not only affect the functioning of the heart, but also increase the risk for heart disease.

Stroke and heart attacks are the end products of progressive damage to blood vessels supplying the heart and brain, a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis progresses when there are high levels of chemicals in the body called pro-inflammatory cytokines.

It is thought that persisting stress increases the risk for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease by evoking negative emotions that, in turn, raise the levels of pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body.

Researchers have now investigated the underlying neural circuitry of this process, and report their findings in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry.

"Drawing upon the observation that many of the same brain areas involved in emotion are also involved in sensing and regulating levels of inflammation in the body, we hypothesized that brain activity linked to negative emotions specifically efforts to regulate negative emotions would relate to physical signs of risk for heart disease," explained Dr. Peter Gianaros, Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and first author on the study.

To conduct the study, Gianaros and his colleagues recruited 157 healthy adult volunteers who were asked to regulate their emotional reactions to unpleasant pictures while their brain activity was measured with functional imaging. The researchers also scanned their arteries for signs of atherosclerosis to assess heart disease risk and measured levels of inflammation in the bloodstream, a major physiological risk factor for atherosclerosis and premature death by heart disease.

They found that individuals who show greater brain activation when regulating their negative emotions also exhibit elevated blood levels of interleukin-6, one of the body's pro-inflammatory
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Contact: Rhiannon Bugno
Biol.Psych@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-0880
Elsevier
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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