Mental stress, while never previously linked directly to cardiovascular heart disease, is being seen as more of a culprit these days, according to medical experts.

Even when heart disease patients can pass stress tests done on a treadmill or with chemical stressors after treatment, their hearts may still suffer silent ischemia during mental stress, according to a 2006 study published Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Silent ischmia is a condition where a person suffers inadequate blood flow through the blood vessels of the heart muscle but experiences no symptoms.

"Mental stress induced ischemia is more common than we had recognized," said David S.Sheps, M.D., M.S.P.H. from the University of Florida and the Malcom Randall Veterans Administration Medical Center in Gainesville, FL., who was part of the study. "It remains to be seen whether that ischemia is also associated in this population with an elevated risk for future health events, as it is in other populations."

The results tend to support proposals that mental stress works through a different mechanism than physical stress. This study did not explore the possible mechanisms, but the researchers noted that some hypotheses include effects on very small blood vessels in the heart muscle or on the endothelium, the inner layer of blood vessels that helps control responses to changes in blood flow.

Bottom line: we should all try to better manage our daily stress levels.

Source: Science Daily at