Researchers at Gothenburg university after conducting a study in mice came to a conclusion that social stress triggers the immune system and thereby could speed up the development of atherosclerosis.
"The aim of my thesis was to study the underlying mechanisms by which stress leads to atherosclerosis and subsequent cardiovascular disease", said Evelina Bernberg, researcher at the Department of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, at the Sahlgrenska Academy.
"We found that situations that disrupt the social environment in which the mice normally live increased atherosclerosis, while more physical forms of stress did not," she added.
The scientists discovered that social stress increased blood levels of different markers of inflammation - which previously have been shown to accelerate the development of atherosclerosis.
"When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, adrenalin is released and this increases the heart rate. We also found some evidence that the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the release of these inflammatory markers", Evelina Bernberg said.
This release could be reduced by commonly used blood pressure medication, beta-blockers.
"Our studies suggest that social stress that activates the immune system is also the type of stress that can lead to the development of atherosclerosis, but we need to confirm whether our studies on gene-modified mice also reflect the situation in humans. It is possible that commonly used beta-blockers to a certain extent may prevent stress from leading to atherosclerosis," she concluded.