These 2 proteins make a healthy heart, according to researchers
11/06/2019 // Melissa Smith // Views

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their collaborators find another way to prevent heart attacks. In an animal study published in the journal Science Signaling, the researchers found that two proteins that bind to stress hormones work synergistically to keep the heart healthy. These proteins are stress hormone receptors called glucocorticoid and the mineralocorticoid.

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.)

High levels of stress could lead to heart disease

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.

Things you can do to reduce stress

The following lifestyle changes can help you manage stress and keep your heart healthy:

  • Get moving – Exercise can help fight off the harmful effects of stress. Aim to get at least 30 to 40 minutes of exercise every day, four to five days a week. Exercise helps keep the heart healthy by controlling weight, improving cholesterol, and reducing blood pressure.
  • Have a strong support system – Having a strong support system, such as friends and family, can help reduce stress levels and prevent heart problems. It is important to have at least one person you can rely on, especially when things get hard.
  • Manage your stress at work – A demanding job is indeed stressful, which can take a toll on your health, particularly your heart. Stress becomes even more of an issue when you don’t have a strong support system or have long-term anxiety. Learn how to handle stress in the workplace. Try to take some time off from work and do something relaxing and enjoyable. This could be reading, walking, or even as simple as deep breathing.

Read more articles on how to protect your heart against stress at

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