Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains a leading cause of death worldwide and identification and therapeutic modulation of all its risk factors is necessary to ensure a lower burden on the patient and on society. The physiological response to acute and chronic stress exposure has long been recognized as a potent modulator of immune, endocrine and metabolic pathways, however its direct implications for cardiovascular disease development, progression and as a therapeutic target are not completely understood. More and more attention is given to the bidirectional interaction between psychological and physical health in relation to cardiovascular disease. With atherosclerosis being a chronic disease starting already at an early age the contribution of adverse early life events in affecting adult health risk behavior, health status and disease development is receiving increased attention. In addition, experimental research into the biological pathways involved in stress-induced cardiovascular complications show important roles for metabolic and immunologic maladaptation, resulting in increased disease development and progression. Here we provide a concise overview of human and experimental animal data linking chronic and acute stress to CVD risk and increased progression of the underlying disease atherosclerosis.
Keywords: Acute and chronic stress; Atherosclerosis; Inflammation; Risk factor; Therapeutic target.
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