Can Stress Cause Heart Problems
Stress is a proven cause of heart problems mainly heart disease. While the exact reasons how are still uncertain, people who are regularly exposed to stressful situations or who do not manage their stress have a greater chance of developing heart disease.
Excessive stress can lead to many negative effects on the body, both physical and mental. Some people cope with high stress situations by drinking too much or smoking, both of which wear down the body. Others may develop hypertension, ulcers, and many other conditions, all of which are additional stressors on the body.
Everyday life is full of challenges, both at home and at work. Taking time out of your day to de-stress can help you relax in the short term, and reduce your risk of developing heart disease later in life!
Abstract: Anxiety is a natural physical response that helps us cope with situations on a very basic level, while heart attacks occur in people with heart-related diseases. Although the intensity of chest pain during a heart attack is much worse, the symptoms are similar.
Incorporate Other Healthy Lifestyle Changes One At A Time
Dont try to fix everything at once. Thats especially true if one of the habits you want to break is smoking.
Quitting smoking can be difficult. If you smoke, talk with your health care professional to determine if you need medications or other help to quit. Therapies may include nicotine replacement or prescription medicines. You could also ask for a referral for a smoking cessation program.
Ultimately, you have to take care of yourself to break the cycle of feeling down. That could be doing something structured, such as a yoga class or tai chi practice, or something you can do anywhere, such as meditating, listening to music or reading a book.
Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.
The Role Of Genes In Anxiety Disorder
Just like a major heart attack, a burn is a horrible thing, says McCann. About 33% of patients who have really severe burns develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Which makes us wonder about the 66% who do not get PTSD. We think genes are a huge part of it. Were currently researching whether this same genetic vulnerability holds true for cardiac disease.
Johns Hopkins Women’s Cardiovascular Health Center
The Johns Hopkins Womens Cardiovascular Health Center provides education, comprehensive treatment and diagnostic services to prevent and manage heart disease in women.
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Stress Management How To Deal
There are many techniques for minimizing your response to stress:
- Autogenic training.
- Progressive muscle relaxation.
- Challenging unhelpful thought patterns.
For maximum efficacy, these techniques should be supported by othergood health behaviors.
Getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising makes us feel morearmed and ready, says Dr. Fisher.
Whatever stress management techniques you choose, you will need topractice them regularly to prevent stress from building up.
It must become part of your daily routine, like bathing orbrushing your teeth, says Dr. Fisher. But think of the benefits. Once thestress is gone, whos to say another huge stressor will never happen again? Atleast youll have the tools to prevent it from taking a detrimental toll onyour health.
Stress And Your Heart
The real connection between stress and heart disease, and what to do if you’re under too much pressure.
You’re stuck in traffic, late to an important appointment. Your breath quickens. Your heart races. Your muscles tense. As your anxiety builds, you might even feel like you’re on the verge of having a heart attack.
What you’re experiencing is the phenomenon Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon once termed the “fight-or-flight” response. In a stressful situation, your body releases a flood of chemicals such as cortisol and epinephrine , which prepare your body for action. If the car in front of you were to burst into flames, you’d be ready to leap from your car and flee. But the reaction is counterproductive when you’re just waiting in traffic.
Chronic stresswhether from a traffic-choked daily commute, unhappy marriage, or overbearing bosshas been linked to a wide range of harmful health effects. It can interfere with your mood, sleep, and appetite. But can stress cause heart disease?
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What Causes Chest Pain
It is always a good idea to visit a doctor at least once to rule out any potential heart health issues. Anxiety can cause chest pain, but an important factor in reducing the stress of that chest pain is by making sure you are confident that your heart is in good health. Visiting a doctor is never a bad thing!
Often those living with anxiety and panic attacks will experience chest pain caused by any number of different factors. Some of these include:
- Hyperventilation – Those with panic attacks and anxiety are prone to hyperventilation, or breathing in too much oxygen. It is often due to rapid muscle contractions and excess air in the lungs. Hyperventilation contracts blood vessels and causes considerable chest pain.
- Bloating – anxiety can be connected to excess gas or bloating. Hyperventilation disorder can contribute to this as well. Bloating can cause an increased amount of pressure on the lungs, which in turn leads to chest pain.
- Psychosomatic – most people don’t like to believe the idea that the problem is in their head, but those with extreme anxiety and panic attacks, that are worried about their health, may feel genuine pain even though no cause of pain is present. Psychosomatic means that a physical ailment is aggravated or caused by their thoughts. The anxious mind actually convinces the body that there is a symptom, in this case chest pain.
What Is The Connection Between Mental Health Disorders And Heart Disease
A large and growing body of research shows that mental health is associated with risk factors for heart disease before a diagnosis of a mental health disorder and during treatment. These effects can arise both directly, through biological pathways, and indirectly, through risky health behaviors.5
People experiencing depression, anxiety, stress, and even PTSD over a long period of time may experience certain physiologic effects on the body, such as increased cardiac reactivity , reduced blood flow to the heart, and heightened levels of cortisol. Over time, these physiologic effects can lead to calcium buildup in the arteries, metabolic disease, and heart disease.1,6-11
Evidence shows that mental health disorderssuch as depression, anxiety, and PTSDcan develop after cardiac events, including heart failure, stroke, and heart attack.5,12-20 These disorders can be brought on after an acute heart disease event from factors including pain, fear of death or disability, and financial problems associated with the event.5,16
Some literature notes the impact of medicines used to treat mental health disorders on cardiometabolic disease risk. The use of some antipsychotic medications has been associated with obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, stroke, and death.21
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Stress And Heart Health
However, if there is underlying heart disease, the sudden increase in blood pressure and heart rate could contribute to events leading to a heart attack. For example, in people with atherosclerosis, or cholesterol buildup in their arteries, the increase could cause plaque to rupture and block blood flow, which could result in a heart attack.
The surge can also expose people with existing heart disease to the risk of an arrhythmia, which is an irregular heartbeat.
“There is no solid evidence that stress can directly cause a heart attack,” says Doukky. “However, chronic stress the kind of stress that’s due to ongoing situations like a bad relationship or difficult job can lead to risk factors that affect heart health.”
Chronic stress has been linked to overeating , poor sleep habits and tobacco and alcohol use practices that could translate into high blood pressure, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease as well as diabetes.For older adults, who are already at a higher risk for heart disease because of progressive atherosclerosis associated with aging, stress may increase their chances of developing heart disease, Doukky says.
Diagnosing And Treating Anxiety
Its important to differentiate normal anxiety from the more severe type. Does the anxiety interfere with your family life or keep you from being productive in your professional life? Does it restrict you from engaging in the activities you like? If the answer is yes, then its the kind of anxiety that may require some degree of therapy or medical attention.
Depending on the duration, severity, and type of anxiety, treatment can include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. A common and effective method of treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy , which involves three main components:
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How Does Stress Contribute To Heart Attacks
Surprisingly, the connection between emotional stress levels and heart attacks may not be as apparent as one might believe. While it is certainly a good idea to reduce both physical and emotional stress levels, the scenario of suffering a massive heart attack immediately following an emotionally stressful event is most likely more myth than fact. Stress in and of itself does not create a fatal heart condition.
If anything, a certain amount of physical stress, whether it be exercise or work-related, can actually be beneficial to cardiovascular health. The more a muscle is challenged or exercised, the stronger it becomes. A reasonable amount of physical stress strengthens the heart muscles and should reduce the probability of heart attacks or other heart diseases. If a weakened or diseased heart is overworked through excessive physical exertion, however, it can reach a failure point. Physical stress, however, is not generally considered responsible for weakening heart muscles or aggravating an existing heart condition.
Stress Cardiomyopathy: A Different Kind Of Heart Attack
Most heart attacks are due to coronary arteries being blocked by blood clots that form when plaques of cholesterol rupture. The lack of blood flow through the blocked arteries results in heart muscle dying hence the name “heart attack.” However, there is another form of heart attack called takotsubo cardiomyopathy.
Over the past few years, physicians have come to recognize and better understand this form of heart attack. This unusual type of heart attack does not involve rupturing plaques or blocked blood vessels. It is called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or stress cardiomyopathy. Japanese doctors, who were the first to describe this condition, named it “takotsubo” because during this disorder, the heart takes on a distinctive shape that resembles a Japanese pot used to trap an octopus. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy was commonly believed to be caused by sudden emotional stress, such as the death of a child, and to be far less harmful than a typical heart attack. For that reason, some had also labeled this condition “broken-heart syndrome.”
As awareness of takotsubo cardiomyopathy increases among physicians and patients, I suspect we will be recognizing even more cases of takotsubo cardiomyopathy in the future. The condition certainly does not appear to be as rare as was suspected, nor as harmless as had been believed.
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Does Stress Cause Heart Attacks
Intense physical and emotional stress wont cause a heart attack, but these things can cause something that is very similar to a heart attack. Exposure to chronic physical and emotional stress can result in a condition known as stress cardiomyopathy.
Since anyone can be exposed to chronic stress, cardiomyopathy can happen to someone who has no previous history of heart disease or other health problems.
Different Types Of Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders fall into several categories. Here are a few of them:
- Panic disorder can be associated with cardiac disease or mistaken for heart attack. Feelings of extreme agitation and terror are often accompanied by dizziness, chest pains, stomach discomfort, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder a condition that can follow a shocking or frightening incident or sudden, life-threatening event such as a violent crime, major accident, or heart attack. A person suffering from PTSD often has trouble dealing with anything associated with the incident that caused their condition, and experiences feelings of jitteriness and detachment.
- Obsessive-Compulsive disorder People with OCD will manage unreasonable thoughts and worries by performing the same actions over and over. For example, an individual obsessed with perceived cardiovascular symptoms that have been checked and cleared by a physician may compulsively research them or find new ones for hours on end.
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Chronic Stress Is A Risk Factor For Heart Disease
Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, or hypertension, which is a major risk factor for a heart attack. According to a 2010 study in Current Hypertension Reports, chronic stress including that from racial biases, poverty, or relationship troubles contributes to the development of hypertension. About 70% of people having their first heart attack will have hypertension.
Stress also raises your heart rate. Over time, a prolonged state of stress can have a negative impact on your heart. For example, anxiety is associated with a higher risk of many types of heart disease: coronary artery disease, heart failure, and heart rhythm disorders like tachycardia.
In addition, stress can enable unhealthy habits as people try to cope. These often include smoking cigarettes, drinking more alcohol, and overeating all of which can negatively affect your heart and increase your risk for a heart attack.
What Causes Heart Attacks
Heart disease starts with the buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries of your heart. Plaque consists of cholesterol, other fats, calcium, cellular waste, and various products of inflammation.
Since cholesterol plays a major role, let’s look at it first.
As you probably know, cholesterol comes in two varieties referred to as LDL and HDL . But it’s the LDL cholesterol that we’re mainly concerned with in relation to plaque .
Under the microscope LDL, cholesterol particles are seen to be different sized some are large while others are small, and it’s the small ones that do the most damage. The reason for this is that they are small enough to easily slip through the cells that line the walls of the arteries, and they become oxidized when they enter this region.
As a result, the immune system sees them as foreign invaders and sends what are called macrophages to deal with them . The macrophages gobble them up and in the process, become bloated and are referred to foam cells.
These foam cells form a relatively large mass within the artery wall that usually protrudes into its interior. Indeed, in time, a fibrous “cap” develops over the mass of foam cells. This is the plaque mentioned earlier .
In practice, it usually takes years to build up plaque in this way, and surprisingly it rarely develops to the state where it completely blocks off the artery. Indeed, plaque buildup by itself only causes a heart attack in about 15% of cases.
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What Can Be Done For People With Mental Health Disorders
Addressing mental health disorders early by providing access to appropriate services and support to increase healthy behaviors can reduce someones risk of experiencing a heart disease event.13,15,17,19,28,38-40
Below are some actions that health care systems, health care professionals, individuals, and researchers can take to promote heart disease prevention and support mental health.
Who Is At Risk For Getting Broken Heart Syndrome
You may be at higher risk for getting broken heart syndrome if you are a middle-aged woman. The risk of developing the condition increases five times after the age of 55. While the syndrome has been reported in younger women, in men and even in children, the vast majority of patients are post-menopausal women. The exact reason for this is unknown, but it is believed that because the female hormone estrogen helps to protect the heart from the harmful effects of adrenaline, women become particularly vulnerable to the effects of sudden stress as they grow older and their estrogen levels decline. Other risk factors for developing this condition include a history of anxiety, depression or neurologic illness.
Stay on Top of Your Heart Health
If you have a new or existing heart problem, it’s vital to see a doctor. Our heart health checklist can help you determine when to seek care.
How Can I Cope With Stress
After you’ve identified the cause of stress in your life, the next step is to learn techniques that can help you cope with stress while fighting heart disease. There are many techniques you can use to manage stress. Some of which you can learn yourself, while other techniques may require the guidance of a trained therapist.
Some common techniques for coping with stress include:
Can Stress Cause Heart Disease
As humans, we all stress and worry. We stress about our family, our job, our financial situations. Moderate stress is normal, but sometimes we get so overwhelmed it can feel like we are on the verge of a heart attack.
Is this possible? Well, technically, yes. For more than 100 years, it has been thought that stress plays a role in heart disease and multiple studies today prove this. That fact alone makes it crucial to understand the link between stress and heart disease and know how to manage stress effectively.
How can stress cause heart disease?Chronic stress leads to a 40%-60% increase in cardiovascular disease, said Cardiologist Ray Georgeson, a physician at Piedmont HealthCare.
Stress can lead to a cascade of events in our hearts and body. A stressful situation can cause heightened central nervous system activity, which causes an increase in adrenaline and, ultimately, a high heart rate and blood pressure.
Additionally, stress can cause a plaque rupture, which occurs when cholesterol builds up on the artery wall. According to Georgeson, a small fibrous cap inside the artery keeps the cholesterol and plaque from entering the bloodstream. However, this cap weakens and ruptures after time, causing all the plaque to enter the artery, leading to a blood clot. This blood clot can then lead to a heart attack. Emotional stress, natural disasters, and even intense sporting events can cause stress and trigger plaque rupture.
How can I reduce my stress?
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