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Behavior in a stressful situation, personality factors, and disease severity in patients with acute myocardial infarction: baseline findings from the prospective cohort study SECAMI (The Secondary Prevention and Compliance following Acute Myocardial Infarction-study)

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      BackgroundPsychosocial stress has been identified as a risk factor in association with cardiovascular disease but less attention has been paid to heterogeneity in vulnerability to stress. The serial Color Word Test (CWT) measures adaptation to a stressful situation and it can be used to identify individuals that are vulnerable to stress. Prospective studies have shown that individuals with a maladaptive behavior in this test are exposed to an increased risk of future cardiovascular events. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether maladaptive behavior in the serial CWT alone or in combination with any specific personality dimension was associated with severity of myocardial infarction (MI).MethodsMI-patients (n = 147) completed the test and filled in a personality questionnaire in close proximity to the acute event. The results were analyzed in association with four indicators of severity: maximum levels above median of the cardiac biomarkers troponin I and creatine kinase-MB (CKMB), Q-wave infarctions, and a left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) ≤ 50%.ResultsMaladaptive behavior in the serial CWT together with low scores on extraversion were associated with maximum levels above median of cardiac troponin I (OR 2.97, CI 1.08-8.20, p = 0.04) and CKMB (OR 3.33, CI 1.12-9.93, p = 0.03). No associations were found between the combination maladaptive behavior and low scores on extraversion and Q-wave infarctions or a decreased LVEF.ConclusionsMaladaptive behavior in combination with low scores on extraversion is associated with higher cardiac biomarker levels following an MI. The serial CWT and personality questionnaires could be used to identify individuals vulnerable to the hazardous effects of stress and thereby are exposed to an increased risk of a more severe infarction.

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      Impact of psychological factors on the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease and implications for therapy.

      Recent studies provide clear and convincing evidence that psychosocial factors contribute significantly to the pathogenesis and expression of coronary artery disease (CAD). This evidence is composed largely of data relating CAD risk to 5 specific psychosocial domains: (1) depression, (2) anxiety, (3) personality factors and character traits, (4) social isolation, and (5) chronic life stress. Pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the relationship between these entities and CAD can be divided into behavioral mechanisms, whereby psychosocial conditions contribute to a higher frequency of adverse health behaviors, such as poor diet and smoking, and direct pathophysiological mechanisms, such as neuroendocrine and platelet activation. An extensive body of evidence from animal models (especially the cynomolgus monkey, Macaca fascicularis) reveals that chronic psychosocial stress can lead, probably via a mechanism involving excessive sympathetic nervous system activation, to exacerbation of coronary artery atherosclerosis as well as to transient endothelial dysfunction and even necrosis. Evidence from monkeys also indicates that psychosocial stress reliably induces ovarian dysfunction, hypercortisolemia, and excessive adrenergic activation in premenopausal females, leading to accelerated atherosclerosis. Also reviewed are data relating CAD to acute stress and individual differences in sympathetic nervous system responsivity. New technologies and research from animal models demonstrate that acute stress triggers myocardial ischemia, promotes arrhythmogenesis, stimulates platelet function, and increases blood viscosity through hemoconcentration. In the presence of underlying atherosclerosis (eg, in CAD patients), acute stress also causes coronary vasoconstriction. Recent data indicate that the foregoing effects result, at least in part, from the endothelial dysfunction and injury induced by acute stress. Hyperresponsivity of the sympathetic nervous system, manifested by exaggerated heart rate and blood pressure responses to psychological stimuli, is an intrinsic characteristic among some individuals. Current data link sympathetic nervous system hyperresponsivity to accelerated development of carotid atherosclerosis in human subjects and to exacerbated coronary and carotid atherosclerosis in monkeys. Thus far, intervention trials designed to reduce psychosocial stress have been limited in size and number. Specific suggestions to improve the assessment of behavioral interventions include more complete delineation of the physiological mechanisms by which such interventions might work; increased use of new, more convenient "alternative" end points for behavioral intervention trials; development of specifically targeted behavioral interventions (based on profiling of patient factors); and evaluation of previously developed models of predicting behavioral change. The importance of maximizing the efficacy of behavioral interventions is underscored by the recognition that psychosocial stresses tend to cluster together. When they do so, the resultant risk for cardiac events is often substantially elevated, equaling that associated with previously established risk factors for CAD, such as hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.
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        Association of psychosocial risk factors with risk of acute myocardial infarction in 11119 cases and 13648 controls from 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study.

        Psychosocial factors have been reported to be independently associated with coronary heart disease. However, previous studies have been in mainly North American or European populations. The aim of the present analysis was to investigate the relation of psychosocial factors to risk of myocardial infarction in 24767 people from 52 countries. We used a case-control design with 11119 patients with a first myocardial infarction and 13648 age-matched (up to 5 years older or younger) and sex-matched controls from 262 centres in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, and North and South America. Data for demographic factors, education, income, and cardiovascular risk factors were obtained by standardised approaches. Psychosocial stress was assessed by four simple questions about stress at work and at home, financial stress, and major life events in the past year. Additional questions assessed locus of control and presence of depression. People with myocardial infarction (cases) reported higher prevalence of all four stress factors (p<0.0001). Of those cases still working, 23.0% (n=1249) experienced several periods of work stress compared with 17.9% (1324) of controls, and 10.0% (540) experienced permanent work stress during the previous year versus 5.0% (372) of controls. Odds ratios were 1.38 (99% CI 1.19-1.61) for several periods of work stress and 2.14 (1.73-2.64) for permanent stress at work, adjusted for age, sex, geographic region, and smoking. 11.6% (1288) of cases had several periods of stress at home compared with 8.6% (1179) of controls (odds ratio 1.52 [99% CI 1.34-1.72]), and 3.5% (384) of cases reported permanent stress at home versus 1.9% (253) of controls (2.12 [1.68-2.65]). General stress (work, home, or both) was associated with an odds ratio of 1.45 (99% CI 1.30-1.61) for several periods and 2.17 (1.84-2.55) for permanent stress. Severe financial stress was more typical in cases than controls (14.6% [1622] vs 12.2% [1659]; odds ratio 1.33 [99% CI 1.19-1.48]). Stressful life events in the past year were also more frequent in cases than controls (16.1% [1790] vs 13.0% [1771]; 1.48 [1.33-1.64]), as was depression (24.0% [2673] vs 17.6% [2404]; odds ratio 1.55 [1.42-1.69]). These differences were consistent across regions, in different ethnic groups, and in men and women. Presence of psychosocial stressors is associated with increased risk of acute myocardial infarction, suggesting that approaches aimed at modifying these factors should be developed.
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          2009 focused update incorporated into the ACC/AHA 2005 Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Heart Failure in Adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines: developed in collaboration with the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation.


            Author and article information

            [1 ]Department of Clinical Sciences, Lund University, Skåne University Hospital, Malmö, Sweden
            [2 ]Department of Neurology, Skåne University Hospital, Malmö, Sweden
            [3 ]Department of Cardiology, Lund University, Skåne University Hospital, Malmö, Sweden
            BMC Cardiovasc Disord
            BMC Cardiovascular Disorders
            BioMed Central
            21 July 2011
            : 11
            : 45
            Copyright ©2011 André-Petersson et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

            Research Article

            Cardiovascular Medicine


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