Ischemia is a partial or total restriction in blood supply to tissues, causing a shortage of oxygen that is needed for keeping the cellular tissue alive. It is generally caused by problems with blood vessels, with resultant damage to or dysfunction of tissue. A new study explored the influence of psychological stress on heart attacks and cardiovascular conditions.
Cardiac ischemia may be asymptomatic or may cause chest pain. It occurs when the heart muscle, or myocardium, receives insufficient blood flow. This most frequently results from the long-term accumulation of cholesterol-rich plaques in the coronary arteries. Ischemic heart disease is one of the most common causes of death.
A new study searched for connections between cardiac ischemia and psychological stress. The results showed an incidence of heart attack or cardiovascular-related death more than double in patients with mental-stress induced ischemia compared with those without.
About the psychological stress
Stress is a type of psychological pain. Small amounts of stress may be desired, beneficial, and even healthy. Positive stress helps improve athletic performance. It also plays a factor in motivation, adaptation, and reaction to the environment. Excessive amounts of stress, however, may lead to bodily harm.
Psychological stress is a feeling of strain and pressure. It perceives things as threatening when someone doesn’t believe that their resources for coping with obstacles are enough for what the circumstances demand. When people think the demands being placed on them exceed their ability to cope, they then perceive stress.
Stress can increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks, ulcers, and mental illnesses such as depression and also aggravation of a pre-existing condition.
Stress can be external and related to the environment, but may also be caused by internal perceptions that cause an individual to experience anxiety or other negative emotions surrounding a situation, such as pressure or discomfort, which they then deem stressful.
The new study on psychological stress and recurrent heart attacks
Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, found that mental stress can ‘double the risk’ of a repeat heart attack. They monitored 306 people treated in hospital for a heart attack for three years.
In the initial phase of the research, the patients were tested for response to two types of stress: the conventional physical one and the psychological one. The later stress was induced by asking the patient to give a speech with emotional content in front of an intimidating, seemingly disinterested audience.
The results were that exercise, or drug-induced stress is more common. Three years later, the incidence of heart attack or cardiovascular-related death had doubled in patients with mental-stress induced ischemia compared with those without. The lead investigator, Dr. Viola Vaccarino, stated that psychological stress might help the evaluation of the risk of recurrent heart attacks.
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