A new study conducted by researchers at University of Pittsburgh warns that stress and depression not only has a negative effect on the functioning of your heart, but can also lead to increased risk of heart disease.
The researchers measured the brain activity of 157 health volunteers after asking them to regulate their emotional reactions on seeing unpleasant images. They also analyzed their arteries for signs of atherosclerosis to assess heart disease risk and measured levels of inflammation in the bloodstream.
The researchers found that people who displayed higher brain activity when regulating their emotions had higher levels of a type of pro-inflammatory cytokines called interleukin-6 in their blood stream, which suggested increased risk of atherosclerosis. The study has been published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
"We hypothesized that brain activity linked to negative emotions - specifically efforts to regulate negative emotions - would relate to physical signs of risk for heart disease. We think that the mechanistic basis for this connection may lie in the functioning of brain regions important for regulating both emotion and inflammation. These findings may have implications for brain-based prevention and intervention efforts to improve heart health and protect against heart disease", lead researcher Dr Peter Gianaros said.