Stress Impacts the Brain Increasing Risk for Heart Disease

New study suggests that how the mind, body, and brain perceive and respond to stress may have direct bearing on the onset of cardiovascular illness.

kukies/Adobe Stock

Chronic stress has long been linked to cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke. New research published in The Lancet suggests that heightened activity in the amygdala, the brain’s emotion processing center, may increase cardiovascular disease risk. This opens the door for new studies of alternative therapies including mindfulness meditation that are known to increase relaxation and stress resilience, and decrease known modifiable heart disease risk factors like hypertension, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, and Type 2 diabetes.

The amygdala is a region in the brain that is particularly susceptible to stress. Heightened activity in the amygdala has previously been linked to depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and emotion regulation, but has yet to be considered as a risk factor for heart disease.

In addition to stress, studies show that arterial inflammation is a known risk factor for cardiovascular illness.…