POST 50
06/27/2013 08:50 am ET

Believe Stress Impacts Your Health? You May Be Raising Your Risk Of Heart Attack

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Do you believe stress impacts your health? Then you may be raising your risk of heart attack, according to a new study.

While there have been many studies connecting stress with heart disease, researchers say this is the first time a study has looked at how a person's perception of stress affects their health in connection with heart disease. The study, published in the European Heart Journal, found that people who reported their health was affected by stress "a lot or extremely" more than doubled their risk of having a heart attack compared with those who said stress had no effect on their health.

"We found that the association we observed between an individual's perception of the impact of stress on their health and their risk of a heart attack was independent of biological factors, unhealthy behaviors and other psychological factors," said Dr.Hermann Nabi, the study's lead author, in a press release. "One of the important messages from our findings is that people's perceptions about the impact of stress on their health are likely to be correct."

More than 7,000 civil servants in London (average age: 49.5) were participants in the study. Researchers followed the group from 1991 to 2009, and in that course of time there were 352 heart attacks or deaths caused by heart attacks.

Along with medical history and socio-demographic information, participants were asked a series of questions about their perceptions of stress in their lives and what impact they believed stress had on their health: "not at all," "slightly," "moderately," "a lot," or "extremely." Researchers put those responses into three groups: "not at all," "slightly or moderately" and "a lot or extremely."

Only 8 percent of the group fell into the "a lot or extremely" category -- but researchers found they were more at risk (2.12 times higher) of having or dying from a heart attack than those who said "not at all." Even when researchers adjusted for different factors, the risk was great: 49 percent higher than those who had said "not at all."

The study reconfirms the need for more mindful living, and the importance of reducing stress. Take a look at the slideshow below to find out about eight strategies for stress-free aging.

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