Remembering stressful events may lead to later heart disease

September 24, 2002

Doing math in your head in a high-pressure environment raises your blood pressure, as does walking a quick and mindless quarter-mile. But new research shows that only the former includes an emotional component, making it a stressor that keeps on giving.

Testing whether ruminations about a previous task would induce the same heart racing that the original task did, researchers found that when an emotional component was present, not only could the thoughts of the task bring later rises in blood pressure, but they also delayed recovery from the original task.

Laura M. Glynn, Ph.D., of the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues note that chronic stress induced rises in blood pressure have been associated with an increased risk of later heart disease, likely due to prolonged strain on the cardiovascular system. The study is published in the September/October issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

"It may be the case that exposure to emotional stressors is of greater potential harm to the cardiovascular system than exposure to non-emotional stressors -- even ones that provoke initial responses of the same magnitude," says Glynn.

The researchers conducted an initial study in which students were given four different tasks: two designed to induce an emotionally driven rise in blood pressure and two to induce a solely physical rise. Seventy-two college undergraduates participated in this study.

The first study showed that when asked to ruminate on the emotional tasks, participants' blood pressure rose to a similar level as when they were actually performing the task. In contrast, thinking back to the physical tasks did not raise subjects' blood pressure.

The second study included 20 students and assessed how they recovered from an emotional task when left alone compared with their blood pressure recovery when they had another task to distract them. That study showed that even when not directed to think about the emotional task they just performed, the subjects would spontaneously ruminate on them afterward, making it take longer for their blood pressure to drop back to normal.

"Delayed recovery may have been due to the fact that those who just experienced an emotionally involving episode were dwelling on this experience and this maintained elevated post-stress [blood pressure] levels," Glynn suggests.

By comparison, students given a questionnaire to serve as a distractor after the task, quickly recovered their normal blood pressure level.

"Linking a tendency to exhibit delayed recovery to later [heart] disease and showing a correlation between the tendency to ruminate and [blood pressure] levels are both consistent with the idea that certain individuals are at increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease," the researchers explain.

The study was conducted at the University of California, San Diego.
-end-
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Health Behavior News Service: (202) 387-2829 or www.hbns.org.
Interviews: Contact Andrew Porterfield at (949) 824-3969 or amporter@uci.edu.
Psychosomatic Medicine: Contact Victoria White at (352) 376-1611, ext. 5300, or visit www.psychosomaticmedicine.org.

Center for Advancing Health

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.