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Heart disease linked to teenage stress

stress link to heart disease
Photo: Teenage Stress Link to Cardiac Disease
A new medical study has found a link between how a person deals with stress and heart disease.

The worse a person deals with stress when young, the more likely they will develop heart disease later in life, a study suggests.

Researchers in the UK and Sweden said that even exercise would do little to help after examining the records of more than 230,000 Swedish men born between 1952 and 1956 who were eligible for military conscription.

They suggested that tackling stress and promoting physical fitness were both needed to help reduce heart disease.

Previous studies have shown that exposure to psychosocial stress (stress experienced by people when they perceive a threat that they feel they cannot deal with) has been identified as a risk factor for coronary heart disease as well as other health problems.
But ability to cope with stress during adolescence is less well understood and it is generally believed that being fit when young leads to a reduced risk of heart disease in later life.

But the study found that low stress resilience was linked to higher risk of heart disease, even after they adjusted the results to take into account physical fitness and other established heart disease risk factors.

They found that even good physical fitness did not seem to provide protection from heart disease among those who did not cope with stress well.

The report concluded: "Low-stress resilience in adolescence was associated with increased risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) in middle age and may diminish the benefit of physical fitness.

"Our results further suggest that physical fitness varies by stress resilience level and that the protective effect of fitness in adolescence is reduced or eliminated in those with low-stress resilience.

"Effective CHD prevention might focus on promoting both physical fitness and tackling stress."

Overall, 10,581 diagnoses of heart disease were identified among the group between 1987 and 2010, when the risk of the 237,980 men of heart disease was assessed.

The research, which was led by the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Sweden's Orebro University, was published online in the journal Heart.


By Jennifer Cockerell


Copyright AAP 2015

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