Save Your Heart, Do Not Ignore Stress
June 28, 2013

Save Your Heart, Do Not Ignore Stress

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

Reasons for stress, such as work pressure, tension at home and financial difficulties continue to grow every day. Previous studies have shown stress can have negative effects on a person's health, causing or aggravating conditions like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure and more.

A group of international researchers, led by Inserm's unit 1018 -- "The Epidemiology and Public Health Research Centre" -- has demonstrated it is essential to be vigilant about this and to take it very seriously when people say that they are stressed. The research team says it is particularly important to pay attention if the patient believes stress is affecting their health, as they have twice as much risk of heart attack as others.

Stress is recognized as one of the main health problems of modern life. A variety of emotional, physical and behavioral symptoms may manifest in a stressful situation. These symptoms can include anxiety, difficulty in concentrating, skin problems, migraines, and others. Prior research, particularly recent studies performed within the Whitehall II cohort, a large-scale long-term study of British Civil servants, has already shown the physiological changes associated with stress can have an adverse effect on health.

Inserm Unit 1018's Herman Nabi worked with a team of researchers to take those findings farther. The team studied people who reported themselves to be stressed, to determine whether there was a link between their feeling and the occurrence of coronary disease in later years. The findings of this study were published in the European Heart Journal.

The participants responded to a questionnaire designed for the Whitehall II cohort to answer the following question: "To what extent do you consider the stress or pressure that you have experienced in your life has an effect on your health." Study participants were also questioned about their stress level and other factors that might affect their health, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and levels of physical activity. The team also took into account arterial pressure, diabetes, body mass index and socio-demographic data such as marital status, age, sex, ethnicity and socio-economic status.

The study found participants who reported their health was affected "a lot" or "extremely" by stress were 2.12 times more likely to have or die from a heart attack when compared with those who did not indicate any effect of stress on their health.

The study findings suggest, from a clinical point of view, a patient's perception of the impact of stress on his or her life may be highly accurate. These perceptions could possibly be used to predict adverse health events.

The link between perceived impact and actual impact of stress is not affected by differences between individuals related to biological, behavioral or psychological factors, according to the findings. The capacity for dealing with such stress, however, does vary from individual to individual depending on the resources available to them.

According to Nabi, "The main message is that complaints from patients concerning the effect of stress on their health should not be ignored in a clinical environment, because they may indicate an increased risk of developing and dying of coronary disease. Future studies of stress should include perceptions of patients concerning the effect of stress on their health."

Nabi emphasizes that in the future, "tests will be needed to determine whether the risk of disease can be reduced by increasing the clinical attention given to patients who complain of stress having an effect on their health."