Researchers in the US have linked a stress gene with a greater risk of death from heart disease.
The team at the Duke University School of Medicine found that a DNA letter change in a single genome resulted in a 38 per cent increase in the likelihood of heart attack or fatality.
Over a period of seven years, the findings remained the same even when factors such as weight and smoking were taking into account.
Managing stress and taking drug therapies could help to reduce the number of disabilities and deaths heart conditions causes, the researchers said.
Speaking to BBC News, Dr Redford Williams, director of the Behavioural Medicine Research Center at the university, said the work has the potential to find genetic variants which could identify which people at highest risk of cardiac arrest.
"This is one step towards the day when we will be able to identify people on the basis of this genotype who are at higher risk of developing heart disease in the first place," he said.
"That's a step in the direction of personalised medicine for cardiovascular disease."
The study involved 6,000 heart patients and found that one in ten males and three per cent of women had the genetic change linked to handling stress poorly.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the study adds to evidence suggesting that stress links director to heart disease.
He added that there are "positive lifestyle changes" which people can make to help them cope with stress. In particular, he feels that eating a balanced lifestyle and getting regular exercise helps people to deal with the demands of modern life.
He also advised people that often feel anxious or worried about their stress levels to make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible.
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