Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Activity in area of brain that handles stress may hold key link to heart trouble

The link between stress and heart problems may have a new explanation, according to a study out of Harvard University.

The study found it’s not just stress, but how people react to it, that can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Research found people with higher levels of activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that reacts to stress, are also at higher risk for heart disease and stroke, according to a news release from MedlinePlus, a news service from the U.S. National Library of Medicine. 

Study lead Dr. Ahmed Takawol, who co-directs the cardiac imaging program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said in the news release this finding “raises the possibility that reducing stress could produce benefits beyond an improved sense of psychological well-being.”

And while Takawol said stress is an unavoidable part of life, it comes down to managing reactions. He recommends small steps to reduce stress and cardiac risk, like meditation and changes in mentality, like following the old adage “don’t sweat the small stuff.”

"Eventually, chronic stress could be treated as an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is routinely screened for and effectively managed like other major cardiovascular disease risk factors," Tawakol said in the release.

To learn more about some of the other risk factors of cardiac disease, the no. 1 killer in Colorado and Jefferson County, go to jeffco.us/public-health.

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