How stress puts us at a higher risk of heart attack: Higher activity in certain ...

In a four-year trial scientists at Harvard Medical School used high-tech MRI scanners to examine the brains, hearts and bone marrow of nearly 300 patients

In a four-year trial scientists at Harvard Medical School used high-tech MRI scanners to examine the brains, hearts and bone marrow of nearly 300 patients

A stressful life significantly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, new evidence suggests.

Scientists at Harvard Medical School have directly linked anxiety and stress to cardiovascular disease for the first time - and discovered exactly why the two are linked.

Experts last night said the findings - the strongest yet to link mental wellbeing with physical health - suggest doctors should start treating people with chronic stress as being at risk of heart attacks.

In a four-year trial they used high-tech MRI scanners to examine the brains, hearts and bone marrow of nearly 300 patients.

They found that people with higher activity in the amygdala region of the brain, the part associated with stress, were 59 per cent more likely over the next 3.7 years to develop heart failure or angina or suffer a heart attack or stroke.

Examination of the scans, published last night in the Lancet medical journal, showed that people with an over-active amygdala also had more clotting in the aorta - the main artery to the heart.

The images also showed greater cellular activity in the bone marrow.

The team think this is because the stressed brain sends signals to the bone marrow to produce extra white blood cells, which play a crucial role in supporting the immune system - a natural defence mechanism if someone feels under threat.

But if too many white blood cells are produced this encourages clotting in the arteries, which become inflamed and furred, a major cause of heart attack and stroke.

They found that people with higher activity in the amygdala region of the brain, the part associated with stress, were 59 per cent more likely over the next 3.7 years to develop heart failure or angina or suffer a heart attack or stroke

They found that people with higher activity in the amygdala region of the brain, the part associated with stress, were 59 per cent more likely over the next 3.7 years to develop heart failure or angina or suffer a heart attack or stroke

Lead author Dr Ahmed Tawakol, of Harvard

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