For some people who survive a heart attack, mental stress may be a stronger predictor of a repeat heart attack or dying from heart disease than physical stress, according to new research.
Traditional stress tests, in which someone exercises on a treadmill or takes a medicine that makes the heart beat faster and harder as if the person was actually exercising, have long been used to check blood flow to the heart and gauge the risk of heart problems, say researchers at Emory University in Atlanta.
They set out to investigate whether myocardial ischemia — when blood flow to the heart is reduced so the heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen — induced by mental stress is associated with poor outcomes among heart attack survivors. They also wanted to investigate how this type of stress testing compares with conventional stress brought on by exercise.
What they discovered is that among the more than 300 young and middle-aged individuals enrolled in the study, those who endured myocardial ischemia with mental stress had a two-fold higher likelihood of having another heart attack or dying from heart disease.
“In our study, myocardial ischemia provoked by mental stress was a better risk indicator than