Local News

New drug treatment can control damaging stress

Posted May 21, 2013 7:49 p.m. EDT
Updated May 21, 2013 7:59 p.m. EDT

— Duke researchers have found an effective drug treatment to control damaging mental and emotional stress. 

James Simmons, 62, of Clinton was one of the 127 study participants at Duke Hospital. Simmons has stable coronary heart disease. 

Simmons was given mental tasks, such as rapidly subtracting numbers, to produce mental or emotional stress, not uncommon to real life experience. 

Using heart and blood pressure monitors, Duke researchers looked at how mental stress triggers ischemia, or poor blood flow in the heart which can cause chest pain.

Duke psychiatrist Dr. Wei Jiang led the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "The individual susceptibility is something we all need to pay close attention to," said Jiang. 

One study group who experienced ischemia, received escitalopram, a drug commonly used to treat depression. It was more than twice as effective as placebo.

Duke cardiologist Dr. Eric Velasquez says many patients with mental stress induced ischemia do not respond to traditional medical therapies.

"Now we've shown not only can we measure it effectively, but that we can mitigate it by treating the patients with medication," said Velasquez.

Simple lifestyle changes, such as increased physical activity, can also help when dealing with mental and emotional stress.