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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

New UC Davis Health research center established to investigate correlation between chronic stress and heart health

The center will focus on analyzing societal, environmental and biological factors that impact individuals in underserved communities


By KATIE HELLMAN — science@theaggie.org 

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UC Davis Health is establishing a research center geared toward studying the correlation between stress and heart health in underserved communities. The PRECISE (Psychosocial stRessors and Exposomics on Cardiovascular health In underServed multiEthnic populations) Center is being funded by the American Heart Association as part of a $13 million initiative.

Chronic stress has been closely linked to cardiovascular issues including atrial fibrillation, coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated stress levels profoundly, which is having harmful effects on mental health, according to the 2020 Stress in America survey from the American Psychological Association.

“These compounding stressors are having real consequences on our minds and bodies,” the survey report reads. “We are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come.

The study will consist of multiple projects, each with a different goal in mind. Project One will recruit participants from various backgrounds with different psychosocial stress levels and socioeconomic statuses, aiming to establish the relationship between heart health and societal, environmental and biological factors.

Nipavan Chiamvimonvat, the associate chief for research in cardiovascular medicine and the co-director of the UC Davis Cardiovascular Research Institute, provided insight into the main objectives of the study.

UC Davis Health has one of the most diverse patient populations in the country…,” Chiamvimonvat said via email. “Therefore, the overarching goal of our study is to determine the effects of chronic psychosocial stress and its consequences on cardiovascular disease development among underserved multiethnic populations.” 

Chao-Yin Chen, a professor of pharmacology at UC Davis, is one of the researchers leading Projects Two and Three, in which she will use animal models to study how stressors like overcrowding, noise and sleep disruption affect heart health.

“Stress can cause heart issues by activating many proteins that are very harmful and cause damage, triggering cardiac events such as arrhythmias by changing how the brain regulates heat and contributing to the development of cardiovascular diseases that increase the risk for heart issues,” Chen said.

The researchers will also aim to discover signaling pathway patterns using advanced omics analyses, which are comprehensive approaches for the analysis of a large set of data.

“The mental health crisis is expected to have negative impacts on heart health, as chronic psychosocial stress has been shown to be a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases,” Chen said. “Minimizing stressors and staying active can reduce overall stress levels and the impacts of the stress on the heart.”


Written by: Katie Hellman — science@theaggie.org