Increased stress hormones linked to high blood pressure, heart disease

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In a new study from Kyoto University, researchers found adults with normal blood pressure and high levels of stress hormones were more likely to develop high blood pressure and experience heart events compared to those who had lower stress hormone levels.

They confirmed that stress is a key factor contributing to the risk of hypertension and heart disease events.

The stress hormones norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine and cortisol can increase with stress from life events, work, relationships, finances and more.

Studies have shown that cumulative exposure to daily stressors and exposure to traumatic stress can increase cardiovascular disease risk.

In the study, the team examined 412 adults ages 48 to 87 years.

Participants were followed for the development of high blood pressure and cardiovascular events such as chest pain, the need for an artery-opening procedure, or having a heart attack or stroke.

Norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine are molecules known as catecholamines that maintain stability throughout the autonomic nervous system—the system that regulates involuntary body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure and breathing.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone released when one experiences stress and is regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which modulates the stress response.

The team found over a 6.5-year follow-up period, every time the levels of the four stress hormones doubled was linked to a 21-31% increase in the risk of developing high blood pressure.

During a 11.2-years of follow-up, there was a 90% increased risk of heart events with each doubling of cortisol levels.

The team says the next key research question is whether and in which populations increased testing of stress hormones could be helpful.

Currently, these hormones are measured only when hypertension with an underlying cause or other related diseases are suspected.

However, if additional screening could help prevent high blood pressure and heart events, we may want to measure these hormone levels more frequently.

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The study is published in Hypertension. One author of the study is Kosuke Inoue, M.D., Ph.D.

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