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Stress In Life: Respond Differently And Live Longer?

“This job is killing me” is not a statement of jest. It is a desperate plea of outright sincerity.

Stress, anxiety, depression — all have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. But can interventions to help people cope with stress positively affect longevity and decrease risk of dying? The results of a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine would imply the answer is an encouraging “yes.”

Constructively dealing with stress is easier said than done, but it would seem logical that if we can reduce our psychological and social stressors we might live longer and delay the inevitable wear and tear on our vessels. This study proved that one such intervention, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for patients who suffered a first heart attack, lowered the risk of fatal and nonfatal recurrent cardiovascular disease events by 41 percent over eight years. Nonfatal heart attacks were almost cut in half. Excitement may be dampened by the fact that all-cause mortality did not statistically differ between the intervention and control groups, but did trend towards an improvement in the eight years of follow up.

Definitely less suffering. Maybe less deaths.

The authors state that psychosocial stressors have been shown to account for an astounding 30 percent of the attributable risk of having a heart attack. Chronic stressors include low socioeconomic status, low social support, marital problems, and work distress. Emotional factors also correlated with cardiovascular disease include major depression, hostility, anger, and anxiety. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles*

Live Longer With Strong Social Ties

A study published in the July PLoS Medicine is getting a lot of press for its conclusion that strong social networks are related to increased lifespan.

The meta-analysis of 148 studies involving 308,849 people found that those with stronger relationships were 50 percent more likely to survive over 7.5 years of follow-up. What’s more, the researchers reported that a lack of strong social ties is as bad healthwise as drinking or smoking, and worse than not exercising or being obese.

But although the association between strong social ties and improved longevity seems robust, other factors could be at play, and applying the findings in clinical practice could be difficult. And sorry, Facebook fanatics: Online “friendships” aren’t thought to count as much as in-person ones do. (PLoS Medicine, New York Times, TIME, The Atlantic)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

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