Acute physical and psychological stressors affect blood coagulation and fibrinolysis, but little is known about hemostatic factors associated with chronic psychological stress. Prolonged psychological stress may end in a state of vital exhaustion, which has been shown to be a risk factor for first myocardial infarction and recurrent events after coronary angioplasty. The present study tested the hypothesis that vital exhaustion resulting from chronic psychological stress is associated with impaired fibrinolytic capacity and increased coagulation factors.
On the basis of a validated questionnaire and subsequent structured interview, a well-defined group of otherwise healthy exhausted men was recruited (N = 15) and compared with age-matched not-exhausted controls (N = 15). Fibrinolytic measures included tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) antigen and plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI-1) activity, and as coagulation factors we examined factors VIIc, factor VIIIc, and fibrinogen. Control variables were: blood pressure, smoking status, triglycerides, cholesterol, and standard hematological measures. Samples were collected twice to correct for intraindividual fluctuations. Statistical analyses were performed using 2 x 2 mixed model analysis of variance with subsequent univariate testing.
Vital exhaustion was associated with significantly elevated levels of PAI-1 activity (p = .023). The higher PAI-1 activity in exhausted subjects (median = 13.0 U/ml vs. 6.0 U/ml) was not accounted for by smoking status or serum lipids. No significant differences were observed in TPA antigen, factor VIIc, factor VIIIc, and fibrinogen. The groups did not differ in blood pressure, smoking status, triglycerides, cholesterol, or standard hematological measures.
These data suggest a reduced fibrinolytic capacity in exhausted individuals. Therefore, the relationship between vital exhaustion and risk of myocardial infarction may be mediated in part by an imbalance between blood coagulation and fibrinolysis.