We’ve long known that stress can have negative effects on the human body – the very word is a derivative of ‘distress’. I certainly see the implications of stress in a lot of my patients.
What’s now been shown, however, is a direct correlation between stress and cardiovascular health.
A new study published in the Lancet followed almost 300 people for four years and measured their brain, bone marrow, spleen and arteries. 22 of the people in the study developed cardiovascular disease. And these were the people that had increased activity in their amygdala.
What is the amygdala?
The amygdala is an almond shaped part of the brain (one in each hemisphere) that is activated by strong emotions, i.e. fight or flight.
The study suggests that when activated, the amygdala sends signals to bone marrow that in turn produces more white blood cells which go on to cause inflammation in the arteries. This inflammation may cause heart attacks, angina or strokes.
Another part of the study followed 13 patients and compared their reported stress levels to amygdala activity and inflammation. Lo and behold, the higher the stress, the higher the inflammation.
While the study’s authors suggest more research needs to be done, for now it’s another reason to do our best to actively reduce the stress in our lives.
Dr Carmen Hunwardsen owns and operates Carmen’s Spinal Care, a busy North Brisbane chiropractic clinic in Everton Hills.