Stress, Anger May Worsen Heart Failure

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay reporter

FRIDAY August 21, 2020 (HealthDay News) – If you have heart failure, try to stay calm. Stress and anger can make your condition worse, a new study suggests.

Mental stress is common in heart failure patients due to the complexity of disease management, progressive worsening of function, and frequent medical problems and hospitalizations, according to lead author Kristie Harris, postdoctoral fellow associate in cardiovascular medicine at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

“We have evidence that patients who experience chronically high stress levels experience heavier disease course with decreased quality of life and increased risk of adverse events,” Harris said in an academic press release.

“Clarifying relevant behavioral and physiological pathways is especially important in the era of COVID-19, when stressors typical of heart failure can be made worse by stressors linked to the pandemic,” Harris added.

The new study included 24 patients with heart failure who filled out daily questionnaires for a week about their stress, anger and negative emotions.

This was followed by a mental stress test in which patients solved math problems and described a recent stressful experience. Echocardiograms were performed to assess diastolic heart function at rest and during stress.

Diastolic function is the heart’s ability to relax and fill up between beats. In heart failure, a damaged or weakened heart does not pump as much blood as the body needs – a condition that can be life threatening.

Patients who reported experiencing anger in the week before the mental stress test had worse resting diastolic pressure, the researchers found.

According to the study’s lead author, Matthew Burg, “Factors such as mental stress and anger are often overlooked and under-addressed. This study contributes to the abundant literature showing that stress and anger affect the clinical outcome of patients with heart disease, adding chronic heart failure. to the list which includes ischemic heart disease (narrowed arteries) and arrhythmias. ”

Burg, a clinical psychologist at Yale, said more work is needed to identify the factors that increase vulnerability to stress in heart failure and whether stress management can improve outcomes for these patients.

The results of the study were published online recently in the Heart Failure Journal.

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SOURCE: Yale University, press release, August 11, 2020

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