Recent epidemiological research has confirmed that psychosocial factors are associated with increased risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD), a major cause of death and disability worldwide. This association is probably mediated by changes in health risk behaviors and neuroendocrine and autonomic functions that affect metabolic, hemostatic, inflammatory, and cardiovascular functions that are the proximal agents in CHD pathogenesis over time as well as the precipitation of acute disease events. Recent developments in genomics have now made it possible to begin the process of identifying specific genetic variants that act either independently or via moderation of the impact of exposures to stressful environmental situations to increase the expression of these health-damaging psychosocial factors and the accompanying behavioral and physiological changes that lead to disease. It will be possible ultimately to use the knowledge emerging from research on gene x environment interactions that affect expression of psychosocial risk factors, health risk behaviors, and biological changes inside the body to speed the development of a new field of prospective medicine—a field where instead of spending the majority of health care resources on the treatment of chronic diseases at the end of life, it will be possible to allocate more resources to develop, test, and implement earlier in the disease process cost-effective, proactive interventions that target persons at high risk.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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