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Stress-related disorders may increase heart risks

A woman with an anxious expression sits with her elbows on a table while her fingers rub the temples of her forehead.

May 8, 2019—People who experience stress-related disorders, which are triggered by a major life event or trauma, may face a heightened risk of heart problems, new research suggests.

The research focused on adults with disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress reaction and adjustment disorder. These conditions can be linked to severe stress, such as:

  • Losing a loved one.
  • Being diagnosed with a serious illness.
  • Witnessing natural disasters or violence.

And there is evidence that this type of stress can cause cardiovascular disease (CVD) problems, such as heart attacks and strokes.

To learn more about this possible link, the research team compared people who were diagnosed with a stress-related disorder to their healthy siblings.

Among the key findings:

  • Compared with their siblings, adults with a stress-related disorder had a 64% higher risk of CVD.
  • The risk of a sudden and severe CVD event (like a heart attack or cardiac arrest) was highest in the first six months after a stress-related diagnosis. It was highest for heart failure within the first year.
  • Stress disorders were more strongly linked to CVD in those younger than 50 than in older adults.
  • The findings were similar when the researchers compared adults with a stress-related disorder to a control group of healthy adults from the general population.

More studies are needed to confirm the findings. But they suggest that stress and CVD may be linked. And this link may be highest in the first months after a stress-related diagnosis.

How can you put the reins on stress?

Stress can have a big impact on your daily life. Here's how to rein it in.

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