Due to the demands many people find placed on them by work and family commitments, stress has become a daily part of the lives of millions of Americans. At Burlingame Dental Arts, our Portland dentists know that stress can cause significant problems for many of our patients.
The effects of stress range from reoccurring headaches to troubles sleeping to poor oral health. Now a new study now suggests that individuals who believe stress is negatively impacting their health may suffer an increased risk of heart attack.
Researchers at the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health in Villejuif, France found that individuals involved in the study had twice the risk of suffering a heart attack when compared to those who did not consider stress a negative factor in their health.
Researchers involved with the study suggest these finds have both a clinical and theoretical value for what the implications could mean for the health of millions of highly stressed individuals.
As a clinical perspective, the results of this study show that doctors need to take more seriously patient claims that stress is having a negative impact on their health. While doctors have known of the negative impact stress can have on an individual’s overall health, the primary focus was on the effect of stress on blood pressure, appetite, and inability to sleep. With a better understanding of how stress relates to an increased risk of heart disease, doctors can now focus on measuring a patient’s risk of developing a coronary heart problem.
From a purely theoretical standpoint, the results of this study imply that the perceived impact of stress on health has a tangible effect and needs to become a point of further study for mental health experts in the future. If stress can negatively impact an individual’s heart health, what other conditions can stress manifest in the body and could improving the way people deal with and interpret stress improve health?
The results of this study were published online in the European Heart Journal.
Impact of Stressful Thinking
In recent years, a number of studies have found a link between stress and heart health. However, this marks the first study that examined how a patient’s perception of stress affects their cardiovascular health. While researchers cannot say whether reducing a person’s stress levels would successfully lower their risk of cardiovascular disease, the topic now warrants more examination.
As part of the study, researchers collected data on over 7,000 men and women who participated in the Whitehall II study, which has followed civil servants working in London for the last 27 years.
Study participants were asked to describe how much they felt the external pressures or stress they experienced daily had impacted their health. Depending on their answers, participants were placed into one of three categories: extremely, slightly or moderately, or none.
Participants were also asked about lifestyle choices, such as daily physical activity, diet, drinking, and smoking, which could also negatively impact their heart health. In addition to this information, researchers also collected data on such medical information as weight, diabetes status, and blood pressure, as well as data on socioeconomic and marital status, sex, age, and ethnicity.
Over the 18 years following the collection of this data, there were 352 heart attacks or deaths from heart attack.
Taking into account various risk factors, researchers determined that individuals who claimed their health was “extremely” affected by stress had twice the risk of heart attack when compared to participants who believed stress played no role in the state of their health. After adjusting the data based on behavioral, biological, and psychological risk factors, such as measuring social support and individual stress levels, researchers found the risk of heart attack wasn’t as high. However, even considering these outside factors, individuals still were still 49 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack when compared to those who didn’t equate stress with negative health.
When examining the data, researchers did warn that while the study did find a perceived connection between stress and heart health, it did not find a clear cause and effect relationship.
Multiple studies have found that chronic and acute stress can negatively impact health, regardless of an individual’s perception of stress on his or her health. Studies have also found that individuals suffering from stress also have an increased risk of poor oral health. Reducing the risk of stress related illness means learning better ways of managing stress, which doesn’t simply mean ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away. Fortunately, stress can be successfully managed using some of the following methods:
- Take several deep breaths periodically throughout the day. Relaxed breathing can help shift the body out of the fight-or-flight response that greatly contributes to stress.
- Exercise daily. Studies have shown that regular exercise can help to greatly reduce an individual’s risk of suffering from depression and anxiety.
- Maintain a balanced diet. Individual’s suffering from reoccurring stress have a tendency to make poor dietary decisions that can negatively impact their health.
- Identify stress triggers in your life and find successful strategies of coping.
If you have any questions regarding the effects of stress or how stress can impact your oral health, feel free to ask any of our Portland dentists in Burlingame Dental Arts during your next appointment.