How Stress, Fear Can Cause a Heart Attack
Researchers have discovered that when a certain area of the brain—the amygdala, which is associated with fear and other forms of stress—appears more active on brain scans, stroke and heart attack risk increases. A new study shows that people with increased activity in the amygdala are more likely to have a stroke, heart attack, or other serious heart problem within the next few years.
The study also showed that a high level of activity in the amygdala is associated with high levels of inflammation in the arteries—an indicator for heart disease—and with activity in the bone marrow that may be connected to blood clot formation. Results of the study show that chronic stress may be an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
For the study, researchers followed 293 people who had undergone CT scans or PET scans of the brain, arteries, bone marrow, and spleen for reasons unrelated to heart disease. During the 4-year study period, 22 people had a heart attack or stroke or were diagnosed with heart disease. Researchers concluded that increased inflammation and bone marrow activity—as seen on the scans of people undergoing tests for serious medical conditions like cancer, and those with chronic mental health problems like PTSD—indicated a higher risk for heart attack and stroke.
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