London: High levels of stress can provoke an increase in bad blood cholesterol, researchers at University College London have discovered.
High levels of LDL cholesterol is the type implicated in a number ofillnesses including cancer, depression and heart disease. In the study by University College London, 199 healthy middle-aged men and women were set a computer task using words, colours and shapes designed to put them under pressure.
In later tests there was a large rise in their cholesterol levels, including LDL type which can lead to heart disease by damaging blood vessels and limiting circulation.
The research, reported in the journal Health Psychology, those whose levels had risen most after the task had higher levels overall even three years later. Some were three times more likely to have harmful cholesterol.
Stress and anxiety are one of the biggest causes of long-term sickness in developed countries and cost substantial amounts in lost production and health care.
Dr Andrew Steptoe, the lead researcher, said it is was not fully understood why stress raises cholesterol. It could be that it upsets how the body breaks down fats.
He said the responses to stress could be used to warn doctors about who may be at risk of heart disease.