People who have a lower response to stress also have lower levels of cholesterol, which is linked to better health, research finds.
High cholesterol can lead to heart disease and other health problems.
The study included 199 middle-aged men and women who were given a stress test and followed for three years.
The results showed that those who responded best to stress had a much lower risk of having clinically high cholesterol.
Professor Andrew Steptoe, the study’s first author, explained the variability in people’s stress response:
“Some of the participants show large increases even in the short term, while others show very little response.
The cholesterol responses that we measured in the lab probably reflect the way people react to challenges in everyday life as well.
So the larger cholesterol responders to stress tasks will be large responders to emotional situations in their lives.
It is these responses in everyday life that accumulate to lead to an increase in fasting cholesterol or lipid levels three years later.
It appears that a person’s reaction to stress is one mechanism through which higher lipid levels may develop.”
The link between stress and cholesterol is not fully understood.
However, it may be that stress encourages the body to produce more energy; in response the liver has to secrete more LDL, which carries cholesterol.
Stress may also inhibit the body’s ability to clear lipids or encourage the inflammatory processes.
Professor Steptoe continued:
“The levels are something to be concerned about.
It does give us an opportunity to know whose cholesterol may rise in response to stress and give us warning for those who may be more at risk for coronary heart disease.”
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
The study was published in the journal Health Psychology (Steptoe & Brydon, 2005).