How Does Stress Affect Our Arteries?

How Does Stress Affect Our Arteries?

Most people are aware that long term stress can have negative affects on the cardiovascular system, and increase your risk of heart attacks or stroke.  New research from Harvard Medical School has revealed some of the physiological changes taking place in our blood when exposed to chronic stress, and its link to atherosclerosis. 

Pressure Gauge in Heart – BM1944

Researchers found that mice exposed to constant stress had higher levels of monocytes and neutrophils circulating through their blood.  The accumulation of these white bloods cells are often found in fatty plaques that have been lodged in the walls of blood vessels.  Researchers then performed another experiment where they blocked bone marrow protein receptors responsible for stimulating the production of these immune cells.  They found that mice with reduced levels of active immune cells developed less plaque in their arteries.

Stress stimulates the body to prepare for oncoming danger, and the release of white blood cells will help the body heal injuries or combat infection.  However with chronic stress caused by work, money, or relationships, there aren’t any infections or wounds to heal, leaving immune cells to continue circulating through the blood.  Researchers hope that a new approach to combat or monitor atherosclerosis can utilize white blood cell counts and regulate its stress-induced production.

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