Heart attacks could be more likely to happen to people who are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, according to a new study.
The research, which was carried out by the Columbia University Medical Centre, found that people experiencing such feelings were 27% more likely to suffer from a heart attack.
Approximately 270,000 people have a heart attack in the UK each year, with almost a third dying before reaching a hospital, and study author Safiya Richardson says the research is important because it can affect everyone.
“These findings are significant because they are applicable to nearly everyone,” Richardson said.
“The key takeaway (message) is that how people feel is important for their heart health, so anything they can do to reduce stress may improve their heart health in the future.”
Researchers analysed six past studies which asked people questions like ‘how stressed do you feel?’ and ‘how often are you stressed?’ before separating answers into high and low stress scores and tracking how many heart attacks people had over 14 years.
The impact of stress was so marked that it was compared in the report, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, to smoking at least five cigarettes per day and likened to a 2.8mmol/l rise in LDL cholesterol and a 2.7/1.4 mmHg surge in blood pressure.
Heart disease is the biggest killer in Britain and, according to The British Heart Foundation, people who have or are at high risk of heart disease should have an LDL cholesterol level less than 2 mmol/l.
A 2.8mmol/l increase is over double the recommended cholesterol levels for heart and stroke patients. Anything under 140/90mmHg represents a healthy blood pressure reading.