Objectives . We tested the hypothesis that psychological stress alters plasma levels of opioid peptides and that these plasma levels are related to pain perception in patients with coronary artery disease. Background . Public speaking psychological stress has previously been shown to be associated with silent ischemia. Methods . After instrumentation and a 30-min rest period, venous blood samples for beta-endorphin were obtained before and immediately after psychological stress in 20 patients with coronary artery disease. Pain threshold was then assessed using a thermal probe technique at baselin and immediately after stress. Patients gave three brief speeches lasting a total of 15 min about real-life hassle situations. Results . Psychological stress significantly increases plasma beta-endorphin levels (4.3 ± 0.9 pmol/liter (mean ± SE) at rest to 8.3 ± 2 pmol/liter after stress, p < 0.05). There was a significant positive correlation between pain threshold and beta-endorphin levels after stress (r = 0.577, p = 0.008). This significant positive correlation was still present while rest blood pressure and change in blood pressure during stress were controlled for by analysis of covariance techniques. Conclusions . In patients with coronary artery disease and exercise-induced ischemia, public speaking produces psychological stress manifested by increased cardiovascular reactivity and causes an increase in plasma beta-endorphin levels that is significantly correlated with pain thresholds. These findings may explain the predominance of silent ischemia during psychological stress in patients with coronary artery disease.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology – Elsevier
Published: Jun 1, 1995
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