Heart Health Negatively Affected By Undesirable Lifestyle Habits Arising From Stress

Dec 26, 2008 by

Heart Health Negatively Affected By Undesirable Lifestyle Habits Arising From Stress

A recent study at the University College London has found that stress raises the risk of heart problems, including heart attack, by steering people toward undesirable lifestyle habits.

Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the study had tracked 6,576 participants of the Scottish Health Study for a period of 7 years.

The researchers collected information regarding the subjects’ general happiness, including symptoms of anxiety or depression and recent sleep disturbances, as well as physical data, which included alcohol intake, smoking and level of physical activity.

The study found that cardiovascular events, which included serious conditions like stroke and heart attacks, was 50% more prevalent in people with relatively higher levels of anxiety and depression.

Lack of physical activity and smoking accounted for about 63% of the increase, with smoking alone making up 41%. Alcohol intake was only a minor culprit, accounting for less than 2% of the increase. High blood pressure accounted for 13%.

“The study suggests that people with psychological stress had a 50 percent increased risk of a cardiovascular disease event over the follow-up period. This increased risk can largely be explained by the higher smoking rates and low exercise levels of individuals who were stressed,” said Mark Hamer, senior research fellow in epidemiology and public health at the university and the lead author of the study.

“Therefore, treating psychological disorders that aim to reduce cardiovascular disease risk should not only focus on the symptoms, but also on behavioral risk factors. It would be beneficial for cardiologists to work with psychologists. […] the most effective interventions might be to combine physiological approaches with intensive lifestyle changes to reduce modifiable risk factors,” he added.

In time to come, preventive actions for cardiovascular conditions may including smoking cessation interventions, increasing levels of physical activity, as well as stress management and relaxation techniques.

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