Hard Times Can Mean Hardened Arteries

August 15, 1997

DALLAS, Aug. 26 -- Hopelessness is a downer for the heart, according to a study that appears in this month's American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

The four-year study of 942 middle-aged men links hopelessness -- defined as feeling like a failure or having an uncertain future -- to a faster progression of atherosclerosis.

Men were asked to rate their feelings of hopelessness on a scale of low, moderate or high. Ultrasound provided a picture of the blood vessels, revealing the amount of artery narrowing from atherosclerosis.

Susan Everson, Ph.D., of the Public Health Institute (PHI) in Berkeley, and lead author of the study, says those who reported high levels of hopelessness after four years had a 20 percent greater increase in atherosclerosis than those with lower levels of hopelessness.

"This is the same magnitude of increased risk that one sees in comparing a pack-a-day smoker to a nonsmoker," says Everson, an associate research scientist at the Human Population Laboratory of the PHI.

"The take-home message is that physicians need to realize that hopelessness has a negative impact and adds to the burden of the disease," she says. Future research needs to more thoroughly examine the mechanisms underlying the observed relationships and identify "social, psychological and physiological factors that lead to hopelessness as well as the factors that may help alleviate it," she adds.

Atherosclerosis is a progressive disease in which fat, cholesterol, cellular waste products, and calcium collect in the blood vessels, impairing their ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients and setting the stage for a heart attack or stroke.

The study gives more support to the "long-held belief that giving up hope has adverse physical and mental health consequences." But exactly why that happens is something that will take more time to determine, says Everson and her co-investigators.

Psychological stressors, depression and anxiety can have effects on the body's central nervous system that influence the production of stress hormones. These factors may be at play in individuals who are highly hopeless, she says.

The data for the study came from the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease study that searches for causes of heart disease among residents of the Kuopio region of Finland.

Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology is one of five journals published by the American Heart Association.
Media advisory: Dr. Everson can be reached at (510) 540-2396. Reporters may call (214) 706-1396 for a copy of the journal report. (Please do not publish telephone numbers).

American Heart Association

Related Heart Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

New 'atlas' of human heart cells first step toward precision treatments for heart disease
Scientists have for the first time documented all of the different cell types and genes expressed in the healthy human heart, in research published in the journal Nature.

With a heavy heart: How men and women develop heart disease differently
A new study by researchers from McGill University has uncovered that minerals causing aortic heart valve blockage in men and women are different, a discovery that could change how heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Heart-healthy diets are naturally low in dietary cholesterol and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts, which is also limits salt, red and processed meats, refined-carbohydrates and added sugars, is relatively low in dietary cholesterol and supports healthy levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.

Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.

Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Read More: Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.