Objectives: Psychological coronary-proncncss is most probably one of the first recognised risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD). The mechanisms by which psychological risk factors might exert their influence on the cardiovascular system arc less clear than those for the more standard biological risk factors. The aim of this review was to classify all possible mechanisms of potentiation of CHD by psychological factors.
Method: A MEDLINE search was conducted by selecting literature on both standard biological risk factors (eg. dyslipidaemia, hypertension, smoking) and psychological risk factors (eg. personality traits, behavioural characteristics, coping with stress) for CHD.
Results: It was suggested that six biological mechanisms could mediate psychological influences specifically for CHD, of course, together with the seventh mechanism of general alterations in health-related behaviours. These are: increased oxygen demand of the heart muscle, decreased blood supply to the heart muscle, increased concentration of blood, enhanced blood clotting, increase in cholesterol and other plasma lipids, disturbances of blood sugar level, and alterations in health-related behaviours.
Conclusions: If more studies of CHD were conducted with both physical and psychological risk factors simultaneously, it would be possible to investigate which of the above suggested mechanisms are important, which could in turn substantially improve both primary and secondary preventive measures.