Psychological Stress, Inflammation, and Coronary Heart Disease

Abstract

Purpose of Review

In this review, we summarize evidence on the risk factor psychological stress in the context of coronary heart disease (CHD) in humans and explore the role of inflammation as a potential underlying mechanism.

Recent Findings

While chronic stress increases the risk of incident CHD and poor cardiovascular prognosis, acute emotional stress can trigger acute CHD events in vulnerable patients. Evidence supporting a potential role for inflammation as a promising biological mechanism comes from population-based studies showing associations between chronic stress and increased inflammation. Similarly, experimental studies demonstrate acute stress-induced increases in inflammatory markers and suggest modulatory potential for pharmacological and biobehavioral interventions. So far, studies investigating patients with cardiovascular disease are few and the full sequence of events from stress to inflammation to CHD remains to be established.

Summary

Psychological stress is an independent CHD risk factor associated with increased inflammation. Although promising, causality needs to be further explored.

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Acknowledgements

This work was funded by research grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation (PP00P1_128565/1) and from the German Research Foundation (INST 38/550-1) (all to PHW). The funding sources had no impact on the writing of the manuscript, or the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

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Correspondence to Petra H. Wirtz.

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Petra H. Wirtz declares no conflict of interest.

Roland von Känel reports personal fees from Vifor AG Switzerland.

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This article reviews published studies and does not present original data with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Psychological Aspects of Cardiovascular Diseases

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Wirtz, P.H., von Känel, R. Psychological Stress, Inflammation, and Coronary Heart Disease. Curr Cardiol Rep 19, 111 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11886-017-0919-x

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Keywords

  • Psychosocial stress
  • Inflammation
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Cytokines
  • C-reactive protein
  • Interleukin
  • Inflammatory stress response
  • Intervention
  • Job burnout
  • Exhaustion