MayoClinic.com points out that serotonin is a chemical produced by the body that is necessary for proper nerve cell and brain function. However, serotonin has effects that go beyond the brain, as too much or too little serotonin can affect the central nervous system, digestion and mood states. Additionally, understanding serotonin’s effects on the cardiovascular system can potentially save a life.
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Rapid Heart Rate
Serotonin can cause changes in heart rate, according to MayoClinic.com. This is particularly true in individuals who are suffering from a condition known as serotonin syndrome, which is characterized by a build up of serotonin in the body. These high levels of serotonin can lead to a rapid heart rate and those affected should report this effect to a medical professional. Individuals with a history of cardiovascular challenges will also want to be mindful of research by Psychosomatic Medicine that showed that serotonin levels can also influence the level by which heart rate increases in response to stress.
Increases in Blood Pressure
Serotonin has been linked to blood pressure changes. According to a 1996 article in the "American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology, and Metabolism," serotonin stimulates several internal chemical responses that result in increased blood pressure. A 2001 article in the journal "Psychosomatic Medicine" notes that higher levels of serotonin can increase high blood pressure that occurs as a result of mental stress. As a result, an individual who needs to monitor his blood pressure for other health reasons will want to be regularly tested while taking serotonin, or consider another medication that will not affect his cardiovascular systems.
Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
According to the "Psychosomatic Medicine" article, higher levels of serotonin may contribute to harmful biobehavioral stress responses from the cardiovascular system. As a result of these stress responses, it is possible to experience higher levels of risk for future cardiovascular diseases. MayoClinic.com notes that serotonin syndrome, where high levels have built up in the system, can contribute to cardiovascular disease by contributing to incidences of irregular heartbeat. This is considered to be a very serious effect of serotonin on cardiovascular function, and should be reported to a doctor immediately.
- "American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology, and Metabolis"; Neuroendocrine and cardiovascular effects of serotonin: selective role of brain angiotensin on vasopressin; J. A. Saydoff, P. A. et al.; 1996
- Mayo Clinic: Serotonin Syndrome - Symptoms
- "Psychosomatic Medicine"; Central Nervous System Serotonin Function and Cardiovascular Responses to Stress; Redford B. Williams, M.D. et al.; 2001