How stress affects the heart

Stress is a frequent side effect of the modern 21st Century lifestyle. We’re always running around to meet deadlines, pay bills we tend to ignore our mental health thus inviting stress into our lives. Everyone experiences stress in different ways, seeking help is very important. The most important response is to seek medical help and counseling. Contact your local doctor and get a heart screening exam to identify any underlying issues. Janet M. Torpy, MD, talks about how chronic stress can make the heart work harder by increasing blood pressure and heart rate. The long-term effects of which can lead to hypertension, abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, and myocardial infarctions. Read on to find out more about the nature of stress and how it adversely affects the heart’s health.   

What Causes Stress?

There can be different causes of stress, not everyone is stressed by the same thing. One thing that might induce stress in one person might not have the same effect on another person. It is normal to experience stress in different walks of life, mostly because of major lifestyle changes. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are stressed and it affects us. Stress can be caused by illness, unemployment, pregnancy, relocation to a new place, mental illness, workload, relationship problems, financial problems, etc.

Signs of Stress

Your body starts giving out several signals when faced with prolonged periods of stress. There are physical and emotional warnings that you must never ignore. If you go on about your life completely unaware of all the stress you are carrying you might face burnout and face risk of stress mitigated diseases such as depression, anxiety, diabetes, and heart disease.

The physical signs of stress include constant aches and pains in the body, ringing in ears, feeling exhausted, trembling, digestive issues, profuse sweating, holding in a lot of tension in your muscles (clenched jaw), heart racing, insomnia, etc. The emotional and behavioral symptoms include; frequent anger explosions, depression, impatience, anxiety, frequent mood swings, not willing to talk to people, increased abuse of drugs or alcohol, and constant negative thinking.

How Does Stress Affect Your Heart? 

Your body reacts to stress as a protective mechanism but too much of it can do more harm than good. Even small amounts of stress can result in inadequate blood flow to the heart muscles, long term stress can put your heart at risk of a stroke by affecting blood clot formation. Adrenaline and Cortisol are common stress-response hormones, and if released for a long period, they can cause an increase in blood cholesterol, sugar, triglycerides, and blood pressure. All of the above are common risk factors for heart disease. Very high levels of Adrenaline in the blood is connected to Broken Heart Syndrome the symptoms of which include shortness of breath and chest pain. Broken Heart Syndrome might be triggered by a sudden unexpected intense emotional moment inducing acute chronic stress. Another effect of chronic stress is the increased production of white blood cells which might be directly linked to arterial clot formation leading to heart disease. 

To cope with chronic stress people might start looking for comfort in food, they tend to stress eat. Reaching out for that extra bag of chips or another serving of cake is just the beginning, people find themselves gorging down three meals worth of food in one sitting. Most comfort food includes greasy food with high sugar-salt content, highly processed carbs, alcohol, and heavy meats. Most of these food items cause a rise in blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and obesity. All of which are directly linked to the occurrence of heart disease. 

How To Manage Stress?

First and foremost comes acceptance, a lot of people undergoing stress are not aware of it or are purposefully ignoring it. This could be because of social stigma or because people cannot recognize the bodily signs of stress. Once you are made aware of the fact that you are going through chronic stress you mustn't panic. You must accept help and go for counseling sessions. Therapy helps you cope with the emotional and behavioral factors of stress. Try to take up a physical activity of your choice! It could be running, walking, gyming, yoga, dancing, trekking, swimming, etc. Anything that makes you happy, a fit body houses a fit mind! Exercise releases endorphins which have a calming effect on us. Get enough sleep, design a sleep routine and meditate before bedtime. Healthy eating habits also go a long way in keeping your heart and mind active and refreshed. Contact your nutritionist and plan a diet regime. Make sure to build a community support system and help those around you who are dealing with stress.  


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