Stress Tied To Heart Disease Risk
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.