A new study conducted by researchers at Emory University looks at whether mental stress plays a role in heart issues including raising the risk for myocardial ischemia in heart attack survivors which may further increase the risk for a second heart attack.
More specifically, the researchers were interested in checking the mental stress levels in people with existent heart issues rather than focusing on physical stress. Usually, health professionals check physical health and stress indicators more often.
In fact, the most widely used testing method for looking at the risk of a second heart attack in patients includes a conventional method of running on a treadmill or taking a pill to increase heart rate and induce the same effect as that of exercise to look at the flow of the blood to the heart and diagnose any potential issues.
However, while this method may be effective in people with overall poor physical health, it does not take mental stress levels into account.
Research from the past has identified stress as one of the reasons for long-term side effects on health and particularly on the heart. A number of studies have associated high-stress levels with conditions including hypertension and metabolic issues.
In addition, scientists have also noted the strong connection between mental health and health of the heart. Often, people with stressful lifestyles and issues such as anxiety are at a higher risk of a heart attack.
The new study, which was recently shown at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session Together with World Congress of Cardiology, explores further the role of stress in survivors of a heart attack.
According to the findings of the study, mental stress seems to be an even bigger contributor in people who have had a heart attack previously.
In the three hundred participants, the researchers noted that the risk of dying from a second heart attack or heart disease increased by two-fold after developing myocardial ischemia as a result of high-stress levels.
The leading author of the study and Wilton Looney Professor of Cardiovascular Research in the department of epidemiology at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, Viola Vaccarino, comments on the findings, saying:
“In our study, myocardial ischemia provoked by mental stress was a better risk indicator than what we were able to see with conventional stress testing,”
She added that “These data point to the important effect that psychological stress can have on the heart and on the prognosis of patients with heart disease. It gives us tangible proof of how psychological stress, which is not specifically addressed in current clinical guidelines, can actually affect outcomes.”
The findings of the study show the importance of taking psychological stress as a significant factor in people with any kind of heart-related conditions.
According to the researchers, by taking mental stress into account, health experts may be able to detect the problem or recurring heart attack and cut down its risk.
Secondly, they hope that the study emphasizes the need for the development of better stress management techniques by clinicians that can help heart patients in the future.