New study in The Lancet on the relation between the amygdala activity and cardiovascular events

More activity in the amygdala (part of the brain that is associated with fear and stress) is a predictor of your risk of a cardiovascular event such as heart attack, heart failure and stroke, a study in The Lancet stated. The study was published January 11, 2017 and showed a link between emotional stress and cardiovascular disease leading to death. 293 patients whose average age was 55 years underwent PET/CT scans of the brain, bone marrow, spleen activity and arterial inflammation from 2005-2008. They tracked the health of these patients for 2-5 years. 22 patients from this study had a cardiovascular event. They went back and studied their scans and found not only increased amygdalar activity, but increased bone marrow activity and arterial inflammation as well. The link between the more active amygdala and cardiovascular disease was significant even factoring other risk factors such as smoking, diabetes and hypertension. Dr. Takawol co-director of the cardiac PET/CT program at Massachusetts General Hospital was the leader of the study said ” the amygdala is a critical component of the brain’s stress network and becomes metabolically active during times of stress.” The finding suggests that there is a complicated chain of events that my explain how increased stress and the link to heart disease. Dr. Joel Dimsdale, not involved with this study, but who has conducted research on psychological stress and CVD stated, “this study demonstrates that how the brain perceives stress is also tied up with future risks of cardiovascular disease”.  Mindful meditation research has shown practice in as little as 8 weeks a decrease in the size and activity of the amygdala and along with an increase in the prefrontal cortex.

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