(NaturalNews) A growing number of recent research studies have come to the conclusion that stress is a significant risk factor for developing an array of potentially deadly chronic illnesses including cancer, diabetes, dementia and especially cardiovascular disease. Researchers have determined that moderate to severe unresolved stress can be as dangerous to your health as smoking one pack of cigarettes per day. Chronic stress causes the release of hormones that are intended to save your life in a 'fight or flight' threatening situation. When chronic stress is present, hormone levels never return to normal and heart disease can be the result.
Researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York have released the results of a meta-analysis in the American Journal of Cardiology analyzing six studies involving nearly 120,000 people that explains how a person's stress level may help predict the risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) or death from CHD. Prior studies have suggested that there may be an association between stress and developing heart disease, but this is the first research to fully establish the connection.
Perceived chronic stress dramatically raises actual risk of heart disease in all age groups
The six studies included in this analysis asked questions designed to determine perceived stress among the participants such as "How stressed do you feel?" or "How often are you stressed?" Responses were ranked as either high stress or low stress, and the researchers then followed them for an average of 14 years to compare the number of heart attacks and CHD deaths between the two groups.
The study's authors determined that high perceived stress is associated with a 27 percent increased risk for incident CHD (defined as a new diagnosis or hospitalization) or CHD mortality. Lead study author, Dr. Donald Edmondson commented "This is the first meta-analytic review of the association of perceived stress and incident CHD... high stress provides a moderate increase in the risk of CHD -- e.g., the equivalent of a 50 mg/dL increase in LDL cholesterol, a 2.7/1.4 mmHg increase in blood pressure or smoking five more cigarettes per day."
The researchers also found a correlation between perceived stress and age. People in the studies were between the ages of 43-74, and the scientists found that among older people, the relationship between stress and CHD was stronger. Dr. Edmonson concluded "The key takeaway is that how people feel is important for their heart health, so anything they can do to reduce stress may improve their heart health in the future." Stress reduction techniques provide an important means to lower levels of chronic stress that will result in lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and increased lifespan.
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