Perceived Stress Increases Risk of Heart Disease, Study Finds

( – A new analysis of studies involving 118,696 participants, conducted by Donald Edmundson, PhD, a professor at Columbia University Medical Center, and colleagues, has found that self-reported perceived stress was associated with a 27% higher risk of coronary heart disease than was experienced by those who reported not feeling stressed.

The new study was published on September 12, 2012 in the online edition of the American Journal of Cardiology.

“Most studies examining potential associations between psychological factors and cardiovascular outcomes have focused on depression or anxiety. The effect of perceived stress on incident coronary heart disease (CHD) has yet to be reviewed systematically,” the authors stated in an introductory abstract of the new study. The researchers set out to do just that.

The new study is one of the first to link self-perceived stress with a higher risk of heart disease.

According to the National Institutes of Health, coronary heart disease is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries, which can narrow or block the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, leading to heart attacks.

The National Institutes of Health reports that coronary heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States; more than 400,000 people die from this condition each year.

The good news is that you can learn to recognize the symptoms of stress, and there are known steps you can take to reduce or cope with stress, according to experts.

The New Study; Methodology

Through a search of scientific literature, the researchers isolated for analysis six previous studies involving a combined total of 118,696 participants. These studies “measured perceived stress [of the participants] with validated measurements and nonvalidated simple self-report surveys.” Some of the studies used a questionnaire measuring how frequently or how severely the participants felt stressed out. Others asked for a yes or no response to questions about whether the participant had felt stressed.

In each of the studies, none of the participants had coronary heart disease at the beginning of the study.

Over follow-up periods ranging from 3 to 21 years, the researchers tracked how many of the study participants received a diagnosis of coronary heart disease, or experienced a hospitalization or death due to coronary heart disease.

The researchers compared the extent to which cardiovascular disease incidents were experienced over the study follow-up periods by those participants who reported high self-perceived stress levels versus the participants who reported low self-perceived stress.

“We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the association between perceived stress and incident CHD [coronary heart disease],” the authors said.

Read Study Conclusions and Tips on How to Manage Stress  >>

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