Adults who have high-stress hormones are more likely to develop high blood pressure and heart events compared to those who have lower stress hormones. This new research was published in the American Heart Association journal, Hypertension.
Previous studies have found that cumulative exposure to long-term or traumatic stress can increase cardiovascular risk, and there is growing evidence to suggest a mind-heart-body connection.
This relationship indicates a person’s mind can positively or negatively affect cardiovascular health, cardiovascular risk factors, and risk for cardiovascular disease events over time. However, these studies only focused on patients with pre-existing hypertension. Studies looking at adults without hypertension were lacking.
“Previous research focused on the relationship between stress hormone levels and hypertension or cardiovascular events in patients with existing hypertension. However, studies looking at adults without high blood pressure were lacking. It is important to examine the impact of stress on adults in the general population because it provides new information about whether routine measurement of stress hormones needs to be considered to prevent hypertension and CVD events,” said study author Kosuke Inoue, M.D., Ph.D.
The Development of Cardiovascular Events
For this new study, more than 6,000 men and women from six U.S. communities were followed from September 2005 to June 2018 and monitored for the development of hypertension and cardiovascular events such as heart attack, stroke, or chest pain. Researchers also analyzed levels of norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine, and cortisol.
“Although all of these hormones are produced in the adrenal gland, they have different roles and mechanisms to influence the cardiovascular system, so it is important to study their relationship with hypertension and cardiovascular events, individually,” Inoue said.
The analysis of the stress hormones and the risk of cardiovascular events found that over a median of 6.5 years, every time the levels of the four stress hormones doubled, there was a 21-31% increase in the risk of developing hypertension.
During the median of 11.2 years, there was a 90% increased risk of cardiovascular events with each doubling of cortisol levels. There was no association found between catecholamines and cardiovascular events.
Inoue and his team found it to be a challenge to study psychosocial stress since it is personal, and its impact varies for each individual. They believe the following key research question is whether increased testing of stress hormones in patients could be helpful in preventing hypertension and cardiovascular events.