Stress And Heart Disease
According to the American Heart Association , There are good data showing clear associations between psychological health and and risk.
Research suggests that during stress, the amygdala a part of the brain that deals with emotions signals the bone marrow to produce extra white blood cells. That can cause arteries to become inflamed, bringing about a heart attack, stroke or chest pains.
The constant or frequent flood of chemicals from stress can also lead to inflammation, making it so your bodys systems dont work as well, increasing your chance of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity all of which are significant risk factors for heart disease.
How you choose to handle stress matters, too. Some people turn to things like food, alcohol or tobacco to relieve stress. Other people choose to watch television or other laid-back activities, missing out on physical activity to release the adrenaline in their bodies. Unfortunately, these stress behaviors further increase your chance of some heart disease risk factors, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. According to the AHA, there is growing evidence that these stress behaviors increase the risk factor for heart disease.
How Can I Learn How To Relax
In order to cope with stress, especially if you have heart disease, you need to learn how to relax. Relaxing is a learned skill — it takes commitment and practice. Relaxation is more than sitting back and being quiet. Rather, it’s an active process involving techniques that calm your body and mind. True relaxation requires becoming sensitive to your basic needs for peace, self-awareness, and thoughtful reflection. The challenge is being willing to meet these needs rather than dismissing them.
There are a number of relaxation techniques, including:
Once you find a relaxation method that works for you, practice it every day for at least 30 minutes. Taking the time to practice simple relaxation techniques gives you the chance to unwind and get ready for life’s next challenge.
Can What I Eat Help Fight Stress?
Your body is able to fight stress and heart disease better when you take the time to eat well-balanced meals. Eat a variety of foods each day, including lean meats, fish, or poultry, enriched or whole grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
About 55%-60% of your daily intake of calories should come from carbohydrates, no more than 25%-30% from of your caloric intake should come from fat and 10%-15% should come from protein.
Your Bodys Response To Stress May Be:
- A headache
- Wreak havoc on your sleep
- Make you feel cranky, forgetful or out of control
A stressful situation sets off a chain of events. Your body releases adrenaline, a hormone that temporarily causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. These reactions prepare you to deal with the situation the fight or flight response.
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How Does Sudden Stress Lead To Heart Muscle Weakness
When you experience a stressful event, your body produces hormones and proteins such as adrenaline and noradrenaline that are meant to help cope with the stress.
The heart muscle can be overwhelmed by a massive amount of adrenaline that is suddenly produced in response to stress. Excess adrenaline can cause narrowing of the small arteries that supply the heart with blood, causing a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart.
Alternatively, the adrenaline may bind to the heart cells directly, causing large amounts of calcium to enter the cells. This large intake of calcium can prevent the heart cells from beating properly. It appears that adrenalines effects on the heart during broken heart syndrome are temporary and completely reversible the heart typically recovers fully within days or weeks.
The Effect Of Anxiety On The Heart
When someone is anxious, their body reacts in ways that can put an extra strain on their heart. The physical symptoms of anxiety can be especially damaging among individuals with existing cardiac disease.
Anxiety may have an association with the following heart disorders and cardiac risk factors:
- Rapid heart rate In serious cases, can interfere with normal heart function and increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
- Increased blood pressure If chronic, can lead to coronary disease, weakening of the heart muscle, and heart failure.
- May result in higher incidence of death after an acute heart attack.
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Understanding Heart Disease: Can Stress Cause A Heart Attack In A Healthy Person
People who are under a lot of stress are often told by family and friends that they should be careful or they might have a heart attack. While these people have good intentions and mean well, their advice isnt medically accurate. We will take a closer look at the connection between stress and heart disease.
What Are The Differences Of Heart Disease Symptoms In Women
Women and men are equally likely to present with chest pain, pressure or discomfort.
However, women are more likely to have other associated symptoms including:
- Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Unusual fatigue
Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you experience chest pain with the symptoms mentioned above, don’t wait until it is too late. It’s important to call 911 right away.
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How Doctors Can Help Eradicate Negative Emotions
Asking about the patient’s emotional state should clearly be part of the medical history, even though doctor-patient time is often abbreviated, says Goldberg. Helping people make changes in their lives to improve health means recognizing the potential barriers that go beyond the person being able to afford their medicine and going to the gym.
Understanding patients’ fears and anxieties is very important, she says. Sometimes, careful observation does the trick, such as noting whether anxiety is provoking patients to sit very forward in a chair or whether they look as though they’re not taking care of themselves or putting on weight.
For the very stressed, Goldberg may refer patients to behavioral psychologists to help alter response to certain triggers. She also refers patients for psychological counseling. If medications seem necessary, she might refer a patient to a psychopharmacologist. Sometimes, she prescribes antidepressants.
For clinical psychologist Burg, it’s about working with patients in a therapeutic situation to help them work their way through reactions that are prolonged. It’s also about helping patients figure out new ways to deal with their life circumstances and put these in a new context. “In difficult circumstances, we don’t always see the resources that otherwise might be available to us,” he says.
Stress Leads To Other Illnesses
The main risk of stress in a persons health is the possibility of developing other sicknesses. Stress can open up issues in health such as gastrointestinal problems, diabetes, and obesity, accelerated aging, asthma, and even become a cause of death. Emotional discomfort from stress such as anxiety, depression, feelings of doubt, and guilt are all linked to mental health concerns. If you see any of these signs, you may want to ask help from your family or friends.
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Inflammation And Cardiovascular Health
High stress can also affect the heart and cardiovascular system by spurring inflammation in the arteries, a risk factor for atherosclerosis/hardening of the arteries.
As stress hormone levels rise in the bloodstream, blood sugar levels increase, too. If those sugar levels exceed the bodys needs, they can trigger an inflammatory response within the walls of the blood vessels. When this inflammation occurs, cholesterol-rich plaque can build in the arteries, potentially bringing about heart attack or stroke.
Anxiety And Heart Attack Recovery
Anxiety disorders come with a high degree of fear and uncertainty. When this fear and certainty keeps the heart attack or heart disease patient from following the advice and treatment plan of their cardiologist, it can have a major impact on recovery. Anxiety can interfere with:
- Sticking to prescribed exercise regimens
- Taking prescribed medications
- Following through with a healthy diet
- Getting a proper amount of quality sleep
- Reconnecting with friends and family
- Confidently resuming job career and family responsibilities
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What Else Can You Do To Boost Your Heart Health
Reducing stress is not the only measure for boosting your hearts health and cutting your risk of a heart attack. You can take other measures to bolster your heart health and overall well-being. These steps include:
- Exercise. This is mentioned twice because its that important. Exercise reduces levels of cortisol. It also releases endorphins hormones that combat stress, boost heart health, and increase circulation throughout the body. .
- Take a nap. A healthy sleep routine is important to reducing stress levels and combating the effects of stress, but a nap can play an immediate role in boosting heart health. During a nap, cortisol levels fall, which erases some of the stress youre experiencing.
- Eat better. A balanced, heart-healthy diet consists of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins , and whole grains. These nutrient-rich foods can improve cholesterol levels and help you manage your weight and blood sugar levels.
- Get vaccinated. Diseases like COVID-19 put people with heart disease or heart health issues at greater risk of complications and death. Getting vaccinated helps reduce the risk of an infection, and if you do test positive, the vaccine can help lower the risk of serious complications.
- Try medication. If youre still experiencing too much stress, talk with a doctor. Certain prescription medications can help reduce the impact of anxiety on your body, including your heart. Some drugs can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attack.
Powerful Hormones At Work
Research shows a relationship between chronic stress and abnormal production of the stress hormones epinephrine , cortisol, and norepinephrine.
The body releases these same hormones when dealing with an episode of acute stressfor example, a situation that occurs within an instant, like when you narrowly avoid a car accident.
- Adrenaline increases the heart rate, raises blood pressure, and increases energy supplies.
- Cortisol floods the bloodstream with glucose and narrows the arteries.
- Norepinephrine raises the heart rate, releases glucose into the bloodstream, and increases blood flow to the muscles.
But when the body experiences chronic stressday after day, for an extended period of timethese hormones can start to have a detrimental effect on heart health.
In play together, these hormones may trigger a higher demand for oxygen in the body, spasms in the hearts blood vessels, and an interruption in electrical impulses, resulting in irregular heartbeats/heart palpitations, chest pain, and/or shortness of breath.
Other prolonged effects of chronic cardiovascular stress can include high blood pressure, increased heart rate, elevated blood sugar, blood vessel damage, and inflammation. And the physiological impact of stress can include damage not only to the heart, but to the overall health of the body, including weight gain, sleeplessness, irritability, headaches, or anxiety.
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Guard Your Heart: Addressing The Relationship Between Anxiety And Heart Disease
Recent studies are investigating the complex relationshipbetween anxiety and heart disease. Not only does anxiety and depression appearto be prevalent in patients with cardiovascular disease, but evidence suggeststhat anxiety could also be the cause of negative long-term effects on hearthealth, which could eventually lead to heart disease.
It’s Tougher On Women
In cases of depression, women outnumber men 2 to 1, says Nieca Goldberg, MD, chief of women’s cardiac care, Lenox Hill Hospital, who runs a practice for heart disease in women. Goldberg points out that many women, adopting what’s called the “tend and befriend” attitude, internalize their anger and disappointment instead of expressing these emotions, and become nicer and more nurturing. “You can be that quiet person that holds everything in and still have the increase in stress reactions.”
Goldberg, who wrote Women Are Not Small Men: Life-saving Strategies for Preventing and Healing Heart Disease in Women, also cites a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins. The researchers found that sudden emotional stress could result in severe weakness in the heart muscle, making it seem as though the person was having a heart attack. This “broken heart syndrome,” says Goldberg, was more common in women.
“I think it’s a common thing that women put themselves last on the list and feel very time-pressed to go to exercise or take down time for themselves,” says Goldberg, who feels it’s especially important to help women identify their support network.
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How Can My Emotions Affect Heart Failure
Unmanaged stress can lead to high blood pressure, damage to your arteries, irregular heart rhythms and a weakened immune system.
Depression in patients with heart failure increases the risk of hospitalization cardiac events, such as chest pain and heart attack and death.
You may feel depressed because you dont know what to expect or because you cant do simple tasks without becoming overly tired. Other factors can contribute to depression, such as:
- Your family history, physical health and state of mind and environment
- Life transitions, losses and high levels of stress
- Imbalances in chemicals your body uses to control your mood
Stress Can Cause A Cardiac Event That Resembles A Heart Attack
More than 90% of stress-induced cardiomyopathy cases occur in older women.
- Sudden stress can cause a cardiac event that feels like a heart attack, called takotsubo cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome.
- This stress-induced cardiomyopathy isnt associated with the artery blockages that lead to a heart attack, though it may cause your heart to pump inefficiently for up to a month.
- Chronic stress can also cause high blood pressure and lead to smoking or an unhealthy diet, which are major risk factors for a heart attack.
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While stress cant directly cause a heart attack, it can have a major impact on your heart health, and even trigger an event that feels just like a heart attack.
Heres what you need to know about stress-induced cardiomyopathy, as well as the effects of chronic stress on your heart and how to manage it.
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Stress Linked To Worse Outcomes For Young Women With Heart Disease
U of A cardiologist part of long-term research to determine causes, suggest treatments.
Stress is much more harmful for young and middle-aged women with cardiovascular disease than for other patients, new research indicates.
“Younger women under the age of 55 tend to do worse than older individuals and men,” said University of Alberta cardiologist Paolo Raggi. “The long-term complication rate and the recurrence rate for heart attacks are much higher.”
Researchers followed 662 heart patients for up to three years. Each person was assessed for symptoms of mental illness, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder , anxiety, anger, hostility and perceived stress.
The researchers found that in women, higher stress was associated with higher rates of adverse outcomes including death, myocardial infarction, stroke, heart failure or unstable angina. In fact, each measured increase of stress on a psychological distress score was associated with a 44 per cent increase in further cardiovascular events.
The study is one of dozens of papers produced by a group of 80 psychologists, psychiatrists, radiologists and heart specialists, including Raggi, who have spent nearly a decade working together to understand the link between heart disease and mental illness.
“The emotional response of women to stress may be one of the causes of their predisposition to more complications once they develop coronary heart disease,” Raggi said.
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American Heart Association News covers heart disease, stroke and related health issues. Not all views expressed in American Heart Association News stories reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Statements, conclusions, accuracy and reliability of studies published in American Heart Association scientific journals or presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the American Heart Associationâs official guidance, policies or positions.
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How Does Stress Lead To Heart Attacks
Psychosocial stress can be short-term or long-term, and both types have been associated with heart disease. Exactly how stress leads to a heart attack is still being studied.
Emotional stress can lead to an increase in blood pressure, or hypertension, which subsequently leads to heart disease and plaque buildup in the coronary arteries. Emotional stress also can lead to increased level of stress hormones, or cortisol. These hormones affect platelets and autonomic tone, which is how your body controls involuntary functions such as heart rate and blood pressure. All these factors play a role in heart disease.
Stress also can lead to unhealthy mechanisms to cope with stress, such as stress eating or substance abuse, and not exercising, which in turn can lead to heart disease.
Also, short-term severe stressful situations often can cause severe but usually temporary heart failure. This condition is called broken heart syndrome, also known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome or stress cardiomyopathy.