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Stress Levels May Contribute to Coronary Heart Disease

In the first study of its kind, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have found that high stress is correlated with a 27% increase in the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD)—about the equivalence of a 50 mg/dL increase in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, a 2.7/1.4 mmHg in blood pressure, or smoking five or more cigarettes daily.

The meta-analysis included six studies, all of which used the perceived stress scale to determine the stress levels of a collective 118,696 participants, whose ages ranged from 43-74. After following the participants for 14 years, the researchers found that there was a stronger correlation between stress and CHD in in older adults but no correlation with gender.

The perceived stress scale is a commonly used measure of stress. Participants rate their stress levels with a scale of 0 to 4 in response to 10 questions, with 0 meaning none and 4 an indication of high levels. Individuals with high stress typically have an average score of 20.

The study was published on December 15, 2012, in the American Journal of Cardiology.

Ways to lower stress (and hopefully lower your risk of CHD) include meditation, yoga, tai-chi, and lifestyle changes.

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