In my previous article about stress and medical conditions, I stated that stress has been known to have varying effects on medical conditions.

Heart Disease

Stress risk factors for coronary heart diseases can be divided into three; chronic, episodic and acute. This classification is based on their duration and closeness in time to the coronary syndromes. Examples of chronic psychological factor include a hostile personality, Type A behaviour or low socioeconomic status. These factors play an important role in early disease stages when the artery-blocking plaque is beginning. Actual biological processes involved include fat deposits, inflammation of the arteries and higher white blood cell counts all resulting from the psychological traits induced through the nervous system. For instance, low socioeconomic status correlates with increased exposure to bacteria and viruses to a higher level of cytokines (proteins that regulate the immune response) and to elevated C-reactive proteins for inflammation.

Similar changes are observed for episodic risk factors like depression or exhaustion which may last between two weeks and two years. Episodic mental health conditions may lead to the creation of unstable plaques. Stable plaques partially intrude into arteries. Unstable was threatening to break off and completely block critical vessels in the heart, causing heart attacks. C-reactive protein measure rises in people with depression and in exhausted individuals over 65 years. Depression also correlates with elements of the immune system like increase cytokines, lymphocytes and white blood cells. Being overweight strengthens the connection between depression and inflammatory markers. Short-term or acute psychological risk factors can directly trigger heart attack once coronary artery disease has reached advanced stages. Anger outburst doubles the risk of heart attack by reducing blood supply to the heart and help to promote plaque rupture. Mental stress can impair heart function in 30 to 60% of patients with coronary disease.


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