Effects of stress on blood pressure and heart health

Higher levels of stress hormones increase the risk that adults will develop high blood pressure and have cardiovascular events. This indicates how much stress in everyday life affects blood pressure and thus also cardiovascular health.

Compared to people with lower levels of stress hormones and normal blood pressure, people with normal blood pressure and high levels of stress hormones have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular events, report experts from the American Heart Association on current research in the English-language journal ” Hypertension “.

Stress increases the risk of cardiovascular disease

Previous studies have shown that cumulative exposure to daily stressors and traumatic stress can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, the team reports. There is also research suggesting that a person’s psyche can positively or negatively affect cardiovascular health over time.

Stress is a key factor in cardiovascular events

“The stress hormones norepinephrine, adrenaline, dopamine, and cortisol can increase with stress from life events, work, relationships, finances, and more. And we have confirmed that stress is a key factor contributing to the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular events, ”reports study author Dr. Kosuke Inoue in a press release from the American Heart Association.

Effects of Stress on Healthy People

“It is important to study the effects of stress on adults in the general population as this provides new information on whether routine stress hormone measurements should be considered to help prevent hypertension and cardiovascular events,” said Dr. Inoue continues.

The participants were part of the so-called MESA Stress 1 study. In the study, the levels of noradrenaline, adrenaline, dopamine and cortisol were analyzed. The hormone levels were measured in a 12 hour night urine test. 412 adults aged 48 to 87 years took part.

Participants were examined three more times (between September 2005 and June 2018) to record the development of high blood pressure and cardiovascular events such as chest pain, the need to open an artery, heart attacks and strokes.

Role of catecholamines and steroid hormones

Noradrenaline, adrenaline and dopamine are molecules known as catecholamines that keep the entire autonomic nervous system stable. The researchers report that this is the system that regulates involuntary body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is released during stress and is regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which controls the stress response.

“Although all of these hormones are produced in the adrenal gland, they have different functions and mechanisms in affecting the cardiovascular system, so it is important to examine their relationship to high blood pressure and cardiovascular events individually,” says Dr. Inoue.

Stress hormones increase the risk of high blood pressure

Analysis of the relationship between stress hormones and the development of atherosclerosis found that over an average follow-up period of 6.5 years, each doubling in the levels of the four stress hormones was associated with a 21 to 31 percent increase in the risk of developing hypertension.

In addition, during the average follow-up of 11.2 years, the risk of cardiovascular events was increased by 90 percent with each doubling of cortisol levels, the team said

Personal stress is difficult to investigate

“It is difficult to study psychosocial stress because it is personal and its effects are different for each individual. In this study, we used a non-invasive measure – a single urine test – to determine if such stress could help identify people in need of additional screening to prevent hypertension and possibly cardiovascular events, ”explains Dr . Inoue.

Now, according to the expert, the question arises whether and in which population groups an increased investigation of stress hormones could be helpful. Currently, these hormones are only measured when hypertension with an underlying cause or other related illness is suspected.

However, if additional screening can help prevent high blood pressure and cardiovascular events, it would make sense to measure these hormone levels more often, says Dr. Inoue.

As a limitation of the study, the expert states that the study did not include any people who were already suffering from high blood pressure at the start of the study. This would have resulted in a larger study population. In addition, the stress hormones in the current study were only measured using a urine test. (as)

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Author and source information

This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.

Sources:

  • American Heart Association: Elevated stress hormones linked to higher risk of high blood pressure and heart events (veröffentlicht 13.09.2021), AHA

Important NOTE:
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.

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