Have you ever wondered why the doctor tells you to take it easy and relax? It’s a well-known fact that everyday stress can lead to cardiovascular issues, but up until now, researchers were not able to establish a causality link.
A team of researchers from US has recently uncovered a factor that may explain why high levels of stress can lead to life-threatening heart attacks and even brain strokes. With the help of 293 participants, the research team coordinated by Dr. Ahmed Tawakol discovered that people who have increased amygdala activity are more likely to develop heart-related issues than people with low amygdala activity.
To make this determination, Tawakol and his team of medical researchers asked 293 volunteers to partake in this new study. Note that the beginning of Tawakol’s study, none of the participants had cardiovascular issues.
For the duration of the study, the participants were subjected to brain scans, using PET/MRI neuroimaging devices. In order to see if the participants develop cardiovascular issues, the team tracked down their cardiovascular activity for three to four years.
According to the results, after the study was concluded, only 22 out of 293 participants developed cardiovascular issues or experienced strokes. Apart from keeping close tabs on the participants’ amygdala activity, the also monitored other physiological parameters such as arteries inflammation, brain activity, and bone marrow clotting – vital aspects to determine how stress and cardiovascular disease are related.
After studying the results, the team arrived at the following conclusion – the increased amygdala activity can, in fact, derail important systems. For example, an increase in stress levels can cause arterial inflammation. Furthermore, the amygdala can also cause the bone marrow to function at abnormal levels, which, in turn, causes blood clots which may lead to heart or brain strokes.
Although the study’s results are more than promising, Tawakol and his team believe that the phenomenon must be studied in details before we can say for sure that increased amygdala activity can lead to cardiovascular issues.
However, the author of the study pointed out that the study might lead to new therapies focused on reducing stress. As a reminder, the amygdala is a brain region mainly associated with emotions and motivation, this being the reason why scientists believe it plays a key role in cardiovascular disease prevention. The study was published in The Lancet Journal.
Image source: Pixabay