An article in The Lancet (1/7/17) medical journal reports that activity in the amygdala is a predictor of acute cardiovascular risk. The amygdala is known to be the center of the brain responsible for the stress response. So increased activity in the amygdala indicates increased stress.
When followed up after 3 to 5 years, those in the study with increased amygdalar activity (stress) showed a significantly greater increase in acute cardiovascular events including: heart attack, angina (chest pain), heart failure, stroke or peripheral artery disease (poor circulation in the legs).
Health Day talked to cardiovascular specialist and director of stroke services at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, Dr Salman Azhar, who is quoted as saying:
“What matters is how we react to stress. If we manage stress well with strategies like ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ and meditation, we might be able to change how… (the amygdala) …responds, and actually decrease our chances of having a heart attack.”
(italics and bold mine)
Dr. Azhar is also quoted as saying that it is a long standing practice of his to use mindfulness with his patients who are at risk for stroke to mitigate their stress reactions, which could reduce their overall risk for stroke.
So, this study points out yet another reason in the growing body of evidence indicating that the practice of mindfulness and other stress reduction methods not only increase overall well being, but may also avoid catastrophic heart problems and strokes.
This is an important finding not only for us as individuals, but also for our communities. If we utilize mindfulness meditation and other stress reduction methods we can improve overall health and reduce health care costs in our communities. Through proactive stress reduction strategies like mindfulness training programs and seeing your Professional Counselor for regular stress reduction “Tune Ups”, these goals can be achieved without medication. That is an empowering message that should hearten us all.