The connection between the mind, heart and body is realBy Veita Bland, M.D. / October 1, 2021
It is not a secret that the stresses of life can and do affect the quality of your health. This is particularly so with the quality of your cardiovascular health. Strong scientific evidence has proven that the mind, the heart and the body greatly impact one another.
Previous studies in this field have studied how stress affects people who have had heart disease. In a new long-term study that was recently released, the investigators examined how stress hormones effect the study participants who have no indication of heart disease. They wanted to know how those stress hormones impact the development of cardiovascular disease long term in study subjects. The researchers wanted to know whether measuring stress hormones would be an efficient way to determine or monitor a patient’s cardiovascular health.
Dr. Kosuke Inoue from the Kyoto University in Japan and the University of California, Los Angeles Fielding School of Public health served as the lead author of this study. The study protocol looked at people from different ethnic backgrounds: Black Hispanic and White adults from New York City and Los Angeles. As noted, these were healthy people with no cardiovascular problems identified. This study lasted more than a decade.
Inoue measured four stress hormones. Three of the hormones are known to regulate body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. A fourth hormone known as cortisol is a steroid hormone that is released during stress.
Participants in this study were from ages 48 to 87. Researchers noted that after seven years of following the subjects, if a participant’s hormone levels were shown to have doubled, that person would have a 21-31 percent risk of developing hypertension.
After 11 years of follow-up when the cortisol level was observed to have doubled, those participants had a 90 percent increased risk of a cardiovascular event such as chest pain, heart attack or stroke. Interestingly, patients with increases in the other three hormones did not experience an increase in cardiovascular events during this long follow up.
So, the question is, should we be measuring the stress hormone cortisol especially as a predictive measurement?
We all know that life has its ups and downs, but how do we equip people with the skills to help them cope better with stress and not produce those large increases in the stress hormones. How do we add helpful tools in their psychological toolbox? How do we ensure the mental health of people?
Would it be more cost effective to invest in tackling healthcare disparities? Should we invest in teaching children how to relax and deal with stress? Do we emphasize physical activities such as exercise, yoga, meditation and the like?
What you think and how it is processed influences your health. Now, what are we going to do about it?
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.