Too much stress can increase the risk of dying from heart failure. This is because stress induces adrenal glands to produce a hormone called cortisol, which binds to glucocorticoid receptors and mineralocorticoid receptors in different tissues of the body to reduce inflammation, among other functions. However, when the levels of cortisol remain too high over a long time, this could result in the manifestation of the common risk factors for heart disease. These include increased cholesterol, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure or hypertension. (Related: Early life stress increases risk of heart disease later in life: Studies show stress affects immune response, inflammation, blood pressure.)
Earlier research has shown that people with high levels of glucocorticoids were more likely to develop heart disease. Based on this finding, the NIH researchers and their collaborators examined a mouse strain lacking glucocorticoids in heart tissue and found that these animals developed enlarged hearts leading to heart failure and death. The team then observed a mouse strain missing mineralocorticoids in heart tissue. In this experiment, they found that the animals’ hearts functioned normally.
From these results, the research team looked at what would happen if both receptors were missing from heart tissue. Therefore, they made another mouse strain that lacked both glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids.
The team hypothesized that these animals would have the same or worse heart problems as the mice without glucocorticoid receptors – but this was not the case. Surprisingly, they found that the hearts of the animals without both receptors were resistant to heart disease.
The research team theorized that this occurred because the mice did not have the gene changes that resulted in heart failure as seen in mice lacking the glucocorticoids. At the same time, these mice exhibited an improvement in the function of genes that protect the heart. The hearts of these animals also functioned normally, albeit slightly enlarged compared to the hearts of those without the mineralocorticoid receptor.
Based on these findings, the research team concluded that these two proteins could lead to the development of therapeutic compounds that could help people with heart disease and prevent subsequent heart problems.
The following lifestyle changes can help you manage stress and keep your heart healthy:
Read more articles on how to protect your heart against stress at Heart.news.