Magazine article Science News

Stressed-Out Platelets Secrete Hazards

Magazine article Science News

Stressed-Out Platelets Secrete Hazards

Article excerpt

Mental stress may enter the blood-stream almost as though injected intravenously, rapidly agitating cells responsible for blood-vessel repair and possibly promoting heart disease, according to a new study.

After individuals complete a stressful laboratory test, their blood platelets secrete much more of a substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). In large amounts, ATP helps trigger blood-vessel changes that may lead to heart attacks and strokes, reports a scientific team directed by Stephen B. Manuck, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh psychology graduate student Susan B. Malkoff.

Their findings appear in the November/December PSYCHOSOMATiC MEDECINE,.

Researchers have yet to track the long-term effects of psychological stress on platelet function, notes Thomas G. Pickering, a cardiologist at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in New York City, in an accompanying comment. But the new data add to evidence that blood platelets may be an important link... between psychological stress and cardiovascular disease," he asserts.

A few previous studies offer inconsistent results regarding the effects of mental stress on platelets. Those studies largely involved people facing "naturalistic" forms of stress, such as elective surgery or public speaking.

The Pittsburgh investigators elicited mental stress in the laboratory in order to control for changes in diet, sleep difficulties, and other behaviors that often accompany real-life stress and can also alter platelet function. …

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