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Jan 14, 2017 08:14 AM EST

Harvard Medical School Study Shows Amygdala's Role In Stress And Heart Attacks

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A study led by Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, showed how the amygdala plays a role in the link between stress and heart attacks. It is widely known that stress can lead to heart attacks or strokes but Tawakol and his team's research may have finally shown which part of the brain is responsible for the disease.

Live Science reported that people in the study who had more activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls stress and fear, were found to have a greater likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke. Dr. Tawakol said that the study focuses on identifying which parts of the brain plays a role in linking stress to the risk of heart attack or stroke.

The study was published on the journal "The Lancet." The study also showed the link between increased activity in the amygdala to processes that contribute to the development of heart disease.

Dr. Tawakol explained that the study focuses on the mechanism behind the link between stress and heart disease. He acknowledged that the link has "long been established."

According to NBC News, the team monitored 293 patients who were getting PET and CT scans, mostly for cancer screening. They all had their brains, arteries, bone marrow and spleen checked. In the next three to four years, Dr. Tawakol and his colleagues checked back to find out who had heart attacks, strokes or other heart-related diseases. There were 22 patients who did.

The researchers then checked their scans. They found that the ones whose amygdalas were more active actually had a higher risk of having a heart attack. Moreover, the team also discovered how that might happen: through inflammation and more activity in the bone marrow.

CNN noted that, according to data from the World Health Organization, heart-related diseases are the major cause of death among men and women globally. About one in three adults in the U.S. has at least one type of heart problem.

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