People who experience a lot of stress do not necessarily have more unhealthy hearts, new research finds.
How you react to stress is more important than the amount of stress you experience.
While negative reactions to stress are known to trigger heart disease, some people cope better than others.
To investigate, researchers measured people’s heart-rate variability.
Dr Nancy L. Sin, the study’s first author, explained the significance:
“Higher heart rate variability is better for health as it reflects the capacity to respond to challenges.
People with lower heart rate variability have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death.”
Along with the heart-rate variability, participants agreed to eight daily telephone interviews to monitor stressful events that had occurred.
The results showed that it was the perception of the stressful events that predicted an unhealthier heart.
Some people in the study experienced many more stressful events, but had healthier hearts at least partly because their attitude was better, the study suggests.
Dr Sin said:
“These results tell us that a person’s perceptions and emotional reactions to stressful events are more important than exposure to stress per se.
This adds to the evidence that minor hassles might pile up to influence health.
We hope these findings will help inform the development of interventions to improve well-being in daily life and to promote better health.”
The results back up another recent study finding that:
“Dealing with the minor stresses and strains of everyday life in a positive way is key to long-term health.
The research found that people who remained calm or cheerful in the face of irritations had a lower risk of inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can lead to health problems like cancer, heart disease and obesity.
The study provides further evidence of how people’s emotional response to everyday stressors impacts their health.”
The new study was published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine (Sin et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Heart image from Shutterstock