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To what extent does stress cause Cardiovascular Disorders?

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Physiological Psychology. To what extent does stress cause Cardiovascular Disorders? A cardiovascular disorder is any disorder effecting the heart and circulatory system. There is evidence that links stress plays a role in the development of two types of cardiovascular disorders, hypertension (high blood pressure) and coronary heart disease (CHD), which reduces the flow of blood to the heart. Stress may directly cause cardiovascular problems by; rising heart rate which wears the lining of the blood vessels, increasing blood pressure which causes too much pressure on the blood vessels resulting in damage, also mounting glucose levels leading to blocked blood vessels. Stress can also have an effect on our lifestyle, we may find that smoking or drinking helps to take away the strain, yet this can have an immense negative effect on our cardiovascular system. Krantz et al (1991) devised a study to look into the extent to which mental stress could be revealed to enlarge the heart condition called Myocardial Ischemia, also for patients suffering coronary artery disease; they looked to see if they reacted in a different way to those without cardiovascular problems. The test involved patients undertaking three mental tasks: arithmetic; a Stroop test; and simulation of public speaking. It was concluded that there is a direct link among performing a mild cognitive task and a psychological activity that could harm the cardiovascular system. ...read more.


The GAS model is based on non-human animals. Humans are able to think about their conditions and may have the potential to manage aspects of the situation. The GAS does not acknowledge these cognitive processes and may not be a suitable description of the human stress response. However, the GAS has led to an immense quantity of research and influenced our understanding of the relationship between stress and illness. The research supports the view that stress does directly cause illness through exhaustion of physiological systems, i.e. it has negative effects on the cardiovascular system. In conclusion, it can be seen when looking at evidence from Krantz et al, Williams et al, Russek and Zohma, Rozanski and when taking in to account the findings of the GAS model, it can be seen that stress does increase the risk of some sort of cardiovascular disorder. The stress could be due to the type of profession an individual is in, cognitive strain, how reactive the ANS is or just purely the certain lifestyle a person chooses to live. To what extent does stress cause disorders of the immune system? The immune system is a arrangement of cells surrounded by the body which assists defend the body against viruses and bacteria. White blood cells (leucocytes) identify and destroy foreign bodies (antigens). Selye's GAS model (1956) proposes that stress leads directly to illness; this is due to the bodies reserves of glucose becoming low under extreme (or chronic) stress. ...read more.


A criticism of this study could be that the participants would have been briefed about the procedure and paid for it, this may have biased the overall results and volunteers may have not been honest and said what the thought the investigators would have liked to hear. Also, the study does not actually tell us anything about the immune system itself. Apart from that the study does claim that individuals with high stress levels are more likely to pick up an infection/illness. Riley (1981) established that stress condensed the immune system activity (lymphocyte count) and was connected to illness. Stress was induced on mice by placing them on a rotating turntable, inside five hours this led to lower lymphocyte count. Some mice were implanted with cancer. After three days of ten minutes of rotation per hour, mice were more likely to develop tumours than control mice given no stress. A criticism of this study could be that the study involved mice so therefore caution must be taken when generalising universally as humans could have different reactions. Despite this criticism, the study have proven that under stressful situations the immune system is more likely to be low so as a result infections and diseases are a greater threat to the human body. When looking at studies undertaken by Riley, Cohen et al, Kiecolt-Glaser and the GAS model provided by Selye the effects of stress on the immune system can be clearly seen. Stress suppresses the immune system, leaving the body susceptible to illness and diseases. ...read more.

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