MEN who experience more stress are at an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes at younger ages, experts have warned.
Many things in our lives can cause stress, including our jobs and our home lives, but experts say stress in men during childhood and young adulthood are the biggest contributors for risk.
Writing in the Journal of the American Heart Association, experts said people who are prone to anxiety and worry should pay more attention to their cardiometabolic health.
The study looked at over a thousand men who had an average age of 53-years-old.
They completed tests on neuroticism on a scale of 0–9 and a worry assessment tool asked how often they worried about each of 20 items, with 0 meaning never and 4 meaning all the time.
Lead author of the study, Lewina Lee, a clinical psychologist said neuroticism is a personality trait characterised by a tendency to interpret situations as threatening, stressful and/or overwhelming.
She explained: "Individuals with high levels of neuroticism are prone to experience negative emotions – such as fear, anxiety, sadness and anger – more intensely and more frequently.
“Worry refers to our attempts at problem-solving around an issue whose future outcome is uncertain and potentially positive or negative.
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"Worry can be adaptive, for example, when it leads us to constructive solutions. However, worry can also be unhealthy, especially when it becomes uncontrollable and interferes with our day-to-day functioning.”
The men had physical exams and blood tests every three-to-five years and the research team also used follow up data where different risk factors were measured.
These included blood pressure levels, cholesterol, fasting blood sugar levels, inflammation markers and obesity levels – measured by body mass index (BMI).
The more of these issues the men had, the more likely they were to develop illness, the experts said.
They found that for men aged 33-65 the number of risk factors increased by one a decade, followed by a slower increase once they reached 65-years-old.
At all ages, men with higher levels of neuroticism had a greater number of high-risk cardiometabolic factors.
What is heart disease and what are the signs?
Heart disease is a major cause of death in the UK.
Not everyone has the same symptoms, and some people display no signs at all before they get a diagnosis.
Here are the signs you need to look out for:
- chest pain (angina)
- shortness of breath
- pain throughout the body
- feeling faint
- feeling sick (nausea)
They also found that higher neuroticism was associated with a 13 per cent higher likelihood of having six or more cardiometabolic disease risk factors.
As well as this, they found that the men with higher worry levels had a 10 per cent higher likelihood of having six or more cardiometabolic disease risk factors.
The researchers however stated that it was not clear if any of the men were receiving treatment for anxiety of other similar issues.
The study was done over four decades and comprised of mainly white men so it's unclear how this could be applied to the general public at large.
Dr Lee added: "It would be important for future studies to evaluate if these associations exist among women, people from diverse racial and ethnic groups, and in more socioeconomically varying samples, and to consider how anxiety may relate to the development of cardiometabolic risk in much younger individuals than those in our study."
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