Cardiovascular illnesses: psychological stress can be a factor

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Cardiovascular illnesses: psychological stress can be a factor
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Cardiovascular illnesses like strokes or heart attacks may be linked to psychological stress. This is what a recent study which appeared in the scientific journal AhaJournals has suggested.  The study was called Circulation : Cardiovascular quality and outcomes.

Despite the fact that the link between the our mental and physical health is difficult to explain and to research, an increasing number of specialist health organisations are in agreement that our body and mind work in close contact. 

Large scale study

In order to gain reliable results in their study, Doctor Catherine A. Jackson’s team studied 221, 677 Australian patients cases who were suffering from one of the two most significant cardiovascular illness:

  • A Stroke: is characterised by a blood circulation failure which effects the brain as the result of  a clot or a rupture in a blood vessel in the brain.  As a result, nerves cells deprived of oxygen quickly die.
  • A Heart Attack happens as a result of a clot in the artery which feeds the heart with blood and oxygen leading to the partial or total destruction of the heart’s muscle.

The aim of this research project was to to emphasise the potential link between cerebral vascular illness and psychological stresses on one hand and heart attacks and psychological stress on the other.  There was an equal number of men and women that took part in the study.

The researched psychological stresses

In order to observe the link between the physical illness of the body and the psychological illnesses, the term psychological stress has to be defined.  In order to determine this stress the researchers asked the participants to fill in a questionnaire.  Then they created 4 categories:

  1. Weak stress
  2. Moderate stress
  3. High Stress
  4. Very high stress.

These categories were then cross-referenced with the cardiovascular disease rates of the participants.
Depression or anxiety are psychological stresses that should not be taken lightly. Their impacts on life are important.

You can also read: Do you know the 5 main causes for depression?

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The link  between the body and mind should not be neglected: here are the results of the study  

Irrevocable results 

According to researchers their results are irrevocable:  psychological stresses and cardiovascular illnesses are linked.
For men, high or very high psychological stresses increased the risk of cardiovascular illnesses by 24%.  The risk of having a heart attack increased by 30%.  For women, high psychological stress could increase the risk of a stroke by 44% and a heart attack by 18%.

These results were reliable for 95% of the patients studied.

Some gaps in the study

Despite the important contribution of this study, some gaps were noted by the researchers.
Their sample of participant may not be highly representative of the world’s population from a geographical, socio-economic or lifestyle perspective.

Another important point to address is the classification of diseases.  So that they could carry out their study, researchers relied on data provided by hospitals. This data may contain errors, such as diagnostic errors for example.  Nevertheless, the results are clear and reliable. We can therefore make a generalisation that a positive and important connection exists between the body and mind.

Lastly, it seems important to note the need for screening for cardiovascular diseases in patients with psychological illnesses.


Related articles:

Stroke: the causes, symptoms and treatments

Presence of blood in the sperm: causes and consequences

Heart attack: the different symptoms in men and women