Cardiovascular disease is now viewed as an inflammatory disease. An index of chronic inflammation (viz., C-Reactive Protein) is as good a predictor of heart attacks as are fats in blood. The data suggest that stressful events are so closely associated with chronic inflammatory states, that the body’s stress response can be viewed as an inflammatory state. This paper summarizes and explains the link between stress and cardiovascular disease. Negative health outcomes, particularly for cardiovascular diseases, are higher among those of lower socio-economic status. Differential stress among socio-economic tiers is considered as an explanation for the disparities. The literature linking cardiovascular risk factors to the stressors of workplace unfairness and lack of control over working conditions is reviewed. The role of the stressor of racism in explaining the higher rates of cardiovascular mortality in African Americans is discussed. Finally, for societies with wider gaps in income between the rich and the poor, increased stress is explored as a possible explanation for the diminished health outcomes found across all socio-economic tiers. The implications for social work direct practice and macro-practice are considered.
Littrell, J. (2007). New developments in understanding cardiovascular disease and the implications for Social Work. Social Work in Health Care, 46(2), 35-49. DOI: 10.1300/J010v46n02_03