Stress and its impact on your heart

Stress and its impact on your heart

We all experience stress in life, and with it comes a range of emotional responses including anxiety, tension, fear and dread. But our reaction to stress isn't purely psychological; it also manifests itself in very real physical symptoms. Stress can cause stomach aches, headaches, tight muscles, clenched jaws, profuse sweating and can even have a negative impact on your heart.

Stressful situations cause your body to release the hormone adrenaline, which can speed up your heartbeat and increase your blood pressure for the duration of the stress-inducing event. If the situation persists, your heart will continue to work overtime for an extended period of time.

While the elevation in blood pressure may put you at greater risk for stroke, it is less clear whether stress is directly linked to heart disease, although some research has demonstrated a more direct correlation. Studies have shown that stress can alter the way blot clots form, which can increase risk for heart attack.

We've all heard the phrase "dealing with a broken heart" when a family member or loved one has experienced loss or has undergone a tragic situation. While the phrase conjures up images of a sad and melancholy person, the condition is quite real. Broken heart syndrome is a temporary condition brought on by a stressful situation. It manifests as sudden chest pain caused by a surge of adrenaline that disrupts the heart's normal function. Broken heart syndrome is temporary (it usually lasts about a week) and can be treated. If you do experience chest pain, it's important to seek immediate medical assistance.

Life-altering experiences may also have a negative impact on heart health. For example, divorce may increase your risk for heart attack, especially in women. As reported in the New York Times, a study published in Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes found that, compared to women who were continuously married, once-divorced women had a 24 percent increased risk of heart attack, while twice-divorced women had a 77 percent increased risk. Men who divorced more than once had approximately a 30 percent increased risk for heart attack, while those who remained married had no increased risk.

How we choose to deal with chronic stress may have a more direct impact on heart health. For instance, many people react to stress by becoming physically inactive, overeating, smoking and/or consuming unhealthy amounts of alcohol, all of which have been shown to a have a direct negative impact on heart health.

On the other hand, stress management through exercise, mediation, healthy eating and a positive attitude are all good ways to deal with stressful times without putting undue pressure on your heart. Instead of reaching for another slice of pizza, cigarette or glass of wine, try hitting the gym, taking a yoga class or simply talking through a stressful situation with a trusted friend.

Posted: 5/22/2015 by Goshen Health
Filed under: and, cardiovascular, Heart, Stress

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