Psychosocial Stress and Cardiovascular Disease

Curr Treat Options Cardiovasc Med. 2019 Apr 26;21(5):23. doi: 10.1007/s11936-019-0724-5.


Purpose of review: This manuscript reviews the epidemiological data linking psychosocial stress to cardiovascular disease (CVD), describes recent advances in understanding the biological pathway between them, discusses potential therapies against stress-related CVD, and identifies future research directions.

Recent findings: Metabolic activity of the amygdala (a neural center that is critically involved in the response to stress) can be measured on 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography (18F-FDG-PET/CT) yielding a neurobiological signal that independently predicts subsequent CVD events. Furthermore, a serial pathway from ↑amygdalar activity → ↑hematopoietic tissue activity → ↑arterial inflammation → ↑CVD events has been elucidated, providing new insights into the mechanism linking stress to CVD. Psychosocial stress and stress conditions are independently associated with CVD in a manner that depends on the degree and duration of stress as well as the individual response to a stressor. Nevertheless, the fundamental biology remains incompletely defined, and stress is often confounded by adverse health behaviors. Thus, most clinical guidelines do not yet recognize psychosocial stress as an independent CVD risk factor or advocate for its treatment in CVD prevention. Clarification of this neurobiological pathway provides a better understanding of the underlying pathophysiology and suggests opportunities to develop novel preventive strategies and therapies.

Keywords: Amygdalar activity; Cardiovascular disease; PET imaging; Psychosocial stress.

Publication types

  • Review