Researchers examined data originally derived from cancer screening imaging studies of 293 patients to analyze amygdalar and bone-marrow activity, as well as arterial inflammation, reported lead author Ahmed Tawakol, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
During the median follow-up at 3.7 years, 22 patients reported having experienced a cardiovascular disease event—including heart attacks, strokes, angina, or other events. Each increase of one standard deviation in resting amygdalar activity predicted a 1.6 increased risk of a cardiovascular event. The results were significant even after adjustment for established cardiovascular risk factors.
Greater amygdalar activity was also associated with increased bone marrow activity, which the authors said led to increased arterial inflammation followed by cardiovascular disease events.
“[T]he brain’s salience network, bone marrow, and arterial inflammation together form an axis that could accelerate the development of cardiovascular disease,” concluded Tawakol and colleagues. “Furthermore, our findings raise the possibility that efforts to attenuate psychosocial stress could produce benefits that extend beyond an improved sense of psychological wellbeing, and could beneficially impact the atherosclerotic milieu.”
For more in Psychiatric News about the connection between heart disease and psychiatric illness, see “Can Collaborative Care Really Help Patients With Depression and Diabetes or Heart Disease.”