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Stress May Raise Cholesterol Levels

A team from University College London, UK has found that stress appears to raise cholesterol levels over the long-term in some people, potentially increasing the risk of heart disease.

Previous studies had established that stress is linked to increased heart rate and weakened immune systems.

The research team gave people 199 people stress tests and cholesterol tests three years apart. Some of the participants showed large increases in cholesterol levels even in the short-term, while others show very little response.

Lead researcher Professor Andrew Steptoe said:
"The cholesterol responses that we measured in the lab probably reflect the way people react to challenges in everyday life as well.
So the larger responders to stress tasks will be large responders to emotional situations in their lives and will have a greater chance of raised cholesterol - a major risk factor for heart and circulatory disease."

The participants were followed up three years later.

Cholesterol levels in all had gone up. However, those people whose cholesterol had risen the most following the initial tests showed substantially greater rises.

Levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol were three times as likely to be at potentially harmful levels in this group compared with those who registered the smallest cholesterol rise after the initial tests.

This was after factors such as baseline cholesterol levels, age, gender, smoking and alcohol consumption were taken into consideration.

The researchers cited several possible reasons to explain this increase in cholesterol level with stress.

1. It might be possible that stress encourages the body to produce more energy in the form of fatty acids and glucose. These substances require the liver to produce and secrete more LDL cholesterol so that they can be transported to the other tissues of the body.

2. Stress interferes with the body's ability to rid itself of excess cholesterol.

3. Stress triggers a number of inflammatory processes which also increase cholesterol production.

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, of the British Heart Foundation said: "We know that stress has a link to heart disease.

"The research suggests that this may be due to stress causing long-term increases in cholesterol in some people.

"We can't yet single out those whose bodies respond strongly to stress, but everyone can cut their chances of developing high cholesterol through a healthy diet and regular exercise."

Source: BBC NEWS. http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/health/4459440.stm

Date: November 11, 2005

Related Topics: 

Effects of Stress
You may not realize it but your emotional health directly affects your physical health. So in addition to making sure you are eating healthy and using a fitness program, you have to maintain a healthy emotional state.

Stress-related estrogen loss increases heart attack risk

The Effects of Stress on Body


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