- NEW YORK - Study findings show that mild psychological stress
can lead to increases in blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked
to cardiovascular disease.
- "We knew that psychological stress
plays a role in cardiovascular disease. These findings suggest homocysteine
may be one mechanism for the stress effect," said study author Catherine
M. Stoney, a professor of psychology at The Ohio State University in Columbus,
in a press statement.
- Stoney recruited 34 women between the
ages of 40 and 63 to take part in the study. Half the volunteers were premenopausal,
while the other half were postmenopausal.
- After fasting overnight, the women reported
to The Ohio State University General Clinical Research Center the next
morning where blood samples, blood pressure, and heart rate were measured
while in a resting state.
- Then the women were asked to perform
two stressful tasks. The first involved continuously subtracting 17 from
a 4-digit number for 5 minutes. The second required them to deliver a videotaped
speech on an anger-provoking subject.
- At the completion of these tasks, and
again after a 10-minute recovery period, blood pressure, heart rate and
blood samples were taken.
- All the women "showed significant
elevations in homocysteine during stress, relative to baseline and recovery,"
Stoney reports in the study published in the May 14th issue of the journal
Life Sciences. And there were "no menopausal group differences."
- Previous research has shown that elevated
homocysteine levels are associated with atherosclerotic plaques, the fatty
deposits that block blood flow to organs such as the brain and heart.
- The study findings "provide a possible...
mechanism whereby psychological stress may contribute to the initiation
and progression of vascular disease," Stoney concludes.