Thursday, May 19, 2022

What Can Stress Do To Your Heart

Have You Ever Wondered How Healthy Your Heart Is

How stress affects your body – Sharon Horesh Bergquist

Compare your actual age to your hearts biological age, as well as calculate your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

In particular, there can be negative effects of stress on the heart. Specifically, how can stress affect your heart? Chronic stress can make you more likely to have high blood pressure, chest pain, heart disease, and irregular heartbeats. Consequently, its important to learn about stress and your heart.

Stress And Your Heart Health

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Everyone experiences stress, because it comes in many forms. For some, its a response to putting in long days at the office or getting stuck in traffic. For others, it may be a lack of sleep or worries about money or illness. You can even experience stress from things you enjoy, like watching a big sporting event.

Stress is a very natural response that causes your body to release chemicals that prepare you for action a phenomenon known as the fight-or-flight response. While having this hard-wired system in place can definitely protect you in dangerous situations, it can also be counterproductive in others, like when youre stuck in traffic.

Our team at Peak Heart & Vascular treats the full spectrum of cardiovascular disease at five Arizona locations. Heres why you shouldnt underestimate the role stress plays in heart disease, and how you can protect yourself.

Can Stress Kill You

AbsolutelyAcute stress is the leading cause of sudden death, especially in young healthy people with no evidence of coronary disease. But it can fell people at any age. My grandmother is an example.

Chronic stress causes heart disease. It is a clandestine cause not fat or cholesterol of heart attacks and arterial disease. It contributes to high blood pressure , a risk factor for cardiovascular problems such as heart failure and sudden cardiac death and heart enlargement.

Long-term depression significantly increases the risk of heart disease. Among other effects, it actually triples the disease producing effect of smoking.

In cardiology, stress is a grim reaper that abruptly ends life by rupturing unstable plaque in a vital vessel or by triggering a lethal disturbance in heart rhythm.

When you get fired up emotionally, youre putting a torch to your arteries. Medical research has repeatedly documented the danger of anger, chronic stress, and the negative emotional states. Yet these risk factors are rarely addressed by doctors.

Recommended Reading: Does Stress Cause Asthma Attacks

Can Stress Lead To A Heart Attack

Many people underestimate the impact that stress can have on the body, especially the heart.

Take a moment to view the American Heart Association video about what may seem like a typical morning family routine:

This portrayal may seem a little over the top, but many of us take pride in being able to accomplish a multitude of tasks and trying to be everything to everyone, impacting us emotionally and physically.

Although several traditional risk factors for coronary artery disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity, affect women and men, other factors can play a bigger role in the development of heart disease in women.

Specific heart disease risk factors specific to women include:

Research is ongoing in other heart disease risk factors in women.

Is heart disease something only older women should worry about?

Women of all ages should take heart disease seriously. Women under 65, and especially those with a family history of heart disease, need to pay close attention to heart disease risk factors.

What are the differences of heart disease symptoms in women?

Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain.

Mental stress may often trigger these symptoms, which could include:
  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unusual fatigue

Don’t wait until it’s too late

Topics in this Post

What Is A Heart Stress Test

April 2015 ~ Mind Your Body

Earlier, I explained exactly what a heart stress test is a test where the doctor progressively stresses the heart with both speed and incline .

But I think a necessary question is why. Why do a heart stress test in the first place? Why not just do a regular ECG/EKG? After all, in a regular EKG, theres no exercise involved. Youre just lying down there on your back, and a technician scans your chest. A few minutes later, you get up, literally without breaking a sweat.

So why stress the heart with exercise? For a couple of reasons:

  • The heart may look fine at rest but under stress, you can catch some things you wouldnt have caught when youre just lying down.
  • To have a more precise idea of what happens in real life. Real life heart attacks are often precipitated by either physical or emotional stress. So it makes sense to test in the condition that actually happens in the real world.
  • Read Also: How To Handle Stress Better

    Heart Muscle Disease Is Increasing And Experts Think Emotional Distress Is A Major Cause

    If someone says their heart is broken, you instantly know what that means: The person is feeling deep grief, usually from the loss of a love relationship or the passing of a loved one. The pain is emotional, but it can feeland bephysical as well.

    In fact, cardiac specialists know extreme emotional stress can actually break a hearts functioning by reducing the ability of heart muscles to pump, thereby depriving the brain and organs of oxygen-rich blood.

    This is called stress cardiomyopathy, also known as broken heart syndrome, and cases have been on the rise.

    Recent data show an increase of four times the number of stress cardiomyopathy cases compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic, says Fadi Chaaban, MD, Director and Chief of Cardiology at Clara Maass Medical Center and a member of RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group.

    Other Methods Of Reducing Heart Rate Fears

    It’s can be challenging to directly control your heart rate. But you can control the way that you react to it. One helpful coping strategy is to exercise. Being physically active actually lowers your general resting heart rate in the long term, but in such cases your heart becomes much more efficient overall. Exercise is also a great-way of combating anxiety. With exercise, therefore, you’ll be less likely to have a slowed pulse thats anxiety related and you can be more confident that your low resting heart-rate is actually a sign of your physical health, rather than any possible problem.

    Seeing a doctor is obviously a good idea as well. Ruling out the most likely medical causes of a low heart rate may not calm you down completely – especially if you still struggle with anxiety – but it may well give you some peace of mind that your low heart rate is not related to any medical concerns.

    Beyond that, try to stop searching on the net for ways to make sense of your low heart rate. Online, you’ll find countless explanations for a low heart rate and you may convince yourself that you’re suffering from a more serious issue, even if youre medically healthy and well.

    Finally, learn to control your overall anxiety. The less anxiety you experience, the less you’ll focus on your heart. The less time you spend worrying about your heart, the less likely you are to experience a low heart rate as a result of anxiety.

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    Also Check: What Are The Physical Symptoms Of Stress

    When You Have Heart Disease

    Heart disease itself can be stressful. Many people feel anxious and depressed after a heart attack or surgery. This is natural, but it can also get in the way of recovery.

    Stress may be more damaging if you have heart disease. You might feel more pain, have more trouble sleeping, and have less energy for rehab. Depression can also increase your risk for another heart attack. And it can make it harder for you to believe you will be healthy again.

    What If Sleep Problems Are Contributing To My Stress

    Stress & Your Heart

    If you cannot sleep and it’s causing you stress or making it worse, try these tips:

    • Establish a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
    • Make sure your bed and surroundings are comfortable. Arrange the pillows so you can maintain a comfortable position.
    • Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
    • Use your bedroom for sleeping only don’t work or watch TV in your bedroom.
    • Avoid napping too much during the day. At the same time, remember to balance activity with rest during recovery.
    • If you feel nervous or anxious, talk to your spouse, partner, or a trusted friend. Get your troubles off your mind.
    • Listen to relaxing music.
    • Talk to your doctor before taking any sleeping aid.
    • Take diuretics or “water pills” earlier, if possible, so you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
    • If you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired. Don’t stay in bed worrying about when you’re going to fall asleep.
    • Don’t exercise within two to three hours of bedtime.

    Also Check: Can Stress Elevate Liver Enzymes

    The Effects Of Stress On Your Body

    Youre sitting in traffic, late for an important meeting, watching the minutes tick away. Your hypothalamus, a tiny control tower in your brain, decides to send out the order: Send in the stress hormones! These stress hormones are the same ones that trigger your bodys fight or flight response. Your heart races, your breath quickens, and your muscles ready for action. This response was designed to protect your body in an emergency by preparing you to react quickly. But when the stress response keeps firing, day after day, it could put your health at serious risk.

    Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. Everyone expresses stress from time to time. Anything from everyday responsibilities like work and family to serious life events such as a new diagnosis, war, or the death of a loved one can trigger stress. For immediate, short-term situations, stress can be beneficial to your health. It can help you cope with potentially serious situations. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond.

    Yet if your stress response doesnt stop firing, and these stress levels stay elevated far longer than is necessary for survival, it can take a toll on your health. Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and affect your overall well-being. Symptoms of chronic stress include:

    • irritability

    Stress And The Cardiovascular System

    With frequent episodes of stress comes frequently elevated blood sugar and blood pressure, two conditions which are well-known contributors to heart disease. Furthermore, those who are often under stress may use less than healthy coping mechanisms such as eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol and smoking.

    All of these factors add up to harm the body in a myriad of ways, not the least of which is damage to the artery walls and subsequent plaque buildup. This buildup impedes blood flow and can even lead to complete blockages. As a result, the risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke are far higher than normal.

    Also Check: Can Stress Cause Seizures In Dogs

    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.

    What To Do When Youre Stressed

    Stress Effects â The American Institute of Stress

    We all need to find our own personal antidote to stress and not take it lightly. For me, its walking on a daily basis with my pet Chow Kuma and doing yoga. Whenever possible, I have gotten away from my many professional and business activities to pursue my favorite pastime: catch-and-release bone fishing. I basically disappear for a few weeks with wife Jan in a warm and sunny vacation spot, and spend time wading and fishing offshore. Its a moving meditation for me.

    Whats your stress-busting method? Theres a lot to choose from. Meditation. Yoga. A hobby. Dancing. Playing music. Playing or watching sports. Playing with the kids or grandkids. Crossword puzzles. Knitting. A hobby. They are all out there.

    And be sure you laugh a lot a great form of stress release!

    And reconnect yourself to the Earth through Earthing . This simple practice allows the Earths natural and gentle electric energy to flow into your body where it calms the nervous system, promotes sleep and better blood flow, reduces inflammation and pain, and increases your energy. Its as easy to do as being regularly outside barefoot on grass, dirt, stone, and sand. But that may not be practical for many people, and certainly not in cold, winter weather. Conductive Earthing sheets, mats, and bands are commercially available to allow you to soak up healthy Earth vibes and improve your health. This is a major health breakthrough and I dont know an easier way to improve your health and lower your stress.

    Read Also: How To Get Rid Of Stress Fat Belly

    Stress Can Promote Disease

    Some people are more prone to certain diseases, and chronic stress can give these conditions the green light.

    Stress has been linked to illnesses that include cancer, lung disease, fatal accidents, suicide, and cirrhosis of the liver.

    Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have discovered that children exposed to chronic stress are more likely to develop a mental illness if they are genetically predisposed.

    Stress Can Make You Look Older

    Chronic stress contributes significantly to premature aging.

    Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, discovered that stress shortens telomeres structures on the end of chromosomes so that new cells cant grow as quickly.

    This leads to the inevitable signs of aging: wrinkles, weak muscles, poor eyesight, and more.

    Recommended Reading: Why Do I Feel So Stressed And Depressed

    Calm Your Anxious Heart

    Managing anxiety can improve your quality of life and take stress off your heart.

    A wave of dread overcomes youyour chest hurts, your heart flutters, and you can’t catch your breath. These classic anxiety symptoms are often mistaken for a heart attackand for good reason. Emotional turmoil triggers the release of stress hormones, which act on the same brain areas that regulate cardiovascular functions such as heart rate and blood pressure.

    How Stress Hormones Impact The Body

    Can stress cause heart problems?

    When adrenaline and cortisol pump through the body, a sequence of events prepares you for action. Your heart rate increases, your energy soars, and your glucose levels and blood pressure spike. These changes allow you to focus and take quick action in the moment. However, for those who suffer from chronic stress, that moment can turn into days or weeks of stress responses that come and go.

    Recommended Reading: Can Stress Cause Dry Mouth

    Improving Your Ability To Handle Stress

    Get moving. Upping your activity level is one tactic you can employ right now to help relieve stress and start to feel better. Regular exercise can lift your mood and serve as a distraction from worries, allowing you to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed stress. Rhythmic exercises such as walking, running, swimming, and dancing are particularly effective, especially if you exercise mindfully .

    Connect to others. The simple act of talking face-to-face with another human can trigger hormones that relieve stress when youre feeling agitated or insecure. Even just a brief exchange of kind words or a friendly look from another human being can help calm and soothe your nervous system. So, spend time with people who improve your mood and dont let your responsibilities keep you from having a social life. If you dont have any close relationships, or your relationships are the source of your stress, make it a priority to build stronger and more satisfying connections.

    Engage your senses. Another fast way to relieve stress is by engaging one or more of your sensessight, sound, taste, smell, touch, or movement. The key is to find the sensory input that works for you. Does listening to an uplifting song make you feel calm? Or smelling ground coffee? Or maybe petting an animal works quickly to make you feel centered? Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so experiment to find what works best for you.

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    What Happens If You Fail A Stress Test

    As the saying goes if at first you dont succeed, skydiving may not be for you. Sorry. Bad joke. Back on topic: what happens if you fail a stress test?

    There are a few things that can happen if you fail a stress test:

  • You get more tests. Further investigation is required to figure out why you failed the test. You may get an ECG, a nuclear stress test , or other tests.
  • Your doctor gets all the information s/he needs from the test, and decides the most appropriate course of action, whether medications, surgery, or something else
  • Recommended Reading: What Is The Best Thing To Take For Stress

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