Stress Can Trigger a Heart Attack
Links Between Stress and Heart Attack Revealed
Two recent studies shed light on the persistent link between stress and sudden heart attacks. In one, a group of German researchers found that as your stress level rises, so do your levels of disease-promoting white blood cells.
Dr. Matthias Nahrendorf explains:
“High levels of white blood cells may lead to progression of atherosclerosis, plaque rupture and myocardial infarction. The latter implies that a part of the heart muscle, which pumps the blood with every beat, dies off.
This may cause heart failure, either right away if the infarct is large, or later on through maladaptive processes. The heart tries to compensate for the loss of contractile muscle tissue but over time this compensation leads to a larger heart, which is weaker.”
Another study, published in the online open-access journal mBiofound yet another way for sudden stress, emotional shock, or overexertion, to trigger a heart attack.
During moments of high stress, your body releases hormones such as norepinephrine, which the researchers claim can cause the dispersal of bacterial biofilms from the walls of your arteries. This dispersal can allow plaque deposits to suddenly break loose, thereby triggering a heart attack.
Stress contributes to heart disease in other ways as well. Besides norepinephrine, your body also releases other stress hormones that prepare your body to either fight or flee. One such stress hormone is cortisol.
When stress becomes chronic, your immune system becomes increasingly desensitized to cortisol, and since inflammation is partly regulated by this hormone, this decreased sensitivity heightens the inflammatory response and allows inflammation to get out of control.
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