While stress is an everyday problem, experiencing too much of it and for an extended amount of time is bad for your health. You can go through all sorts of minor discomfort, from a rumbling stomach to sweaty hands, but that’s not all there is to chronic stress.
You can be stressed about many things, maybe your relationship is taking an unexpected turn, or you are getting more responsibility at work. And how you respond to stress is essential.
If you choose an unhealthy response, then your whole body pays the price, including your heart.
So, What Risk Factors Does Stress Pose to Your Heart?
A cardiologist at John Hopkin’s Medicine centre says that stress is a severe risk factor and is often associated with heart problems. And according to research, people exposed to stress such as divorce had a higher risk of experiencing a heart attack than the group of people from happy marriages.
From the same study, people exposed to work-related stress were at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Whether you are stressed out about losing your job or getting a promotion, both cases were detrimental to the health of your heart.
Heart Diseases You Can Get From Stress
Exposing your body to stress hormones is not good for your health, including your heart. You risk developing high blood pressure, which puts your heart in overdrive mode, and causes a strain on your heart muscles.
On the other hand, cortisol, a stress hormone, increases the risk of developing blood clots. Hence, you have a considerably higher chance of experiencing a heart attack.
As a response to stress levels, different people resort to various techniques. Those who smoke, overeat and do minimal physical activities also add to the risk of heart attacks.
How Does Stress Affect Your Heart?
Stress impacts the health of your heart directly and indirectly. For instance, it results in high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
Stress causes inflammation. And when this occurs, the blood vessels carrying blood to and from your heart constrict, meaning they experience higher pressure.
On the other hand, being stressed releases adrenaline into the body. And while preparing for action, your heart beats faster to supply your body muscles with enough energy to act. So, if you are always stressed, then your heart keeps pumping blood at high rates, meaning your heart rate goes up, and as a result, you develop blood pressure.
Effects of High Blood Pressure
To your arteries:
- High blood pressure results in your heart working in over-drive mode. And even for the elastic, flexible, and strong blood vessels, such as arteries, too much pressure is harmful.
- Hypertension could result in aneurysms, where a section of the weakened artery bulges and could potentially burst. HBP can also result in damaged arterial walls as a result of stress due to increased cholesterol levels.
- Damaged arteries create blood clots, which increases the chances of a heart attack when lodged in the heart.
To the heart:
The overall health of a subject is greatly affected by stress. Should you be exposed to high, constant stress levels, then your heart develops some significant damage.
- You risk developing corona artery disease, where narrowed arteries fail to supply your heart with enough blood. As a result, you could develop irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia), chest pains (angina), or heart attack.
- Constant pressure on the heart causes the muscles to weaken. As a result, your heart fails to satisfy the needs of your body and fails with time.
- Also, since stress levels increase your blood pressure, the heart works harder to pump blood all through your body. And since the muscles are always exerting themselves, parts of your heart, especially the ventricles responsible for pumping blood out of your heart, thicken. Thick heart walls increase your risk of heart failure, heart attack, and even cardiac arrest-related deaths.
How You Respond to Stress Affects Your Heart
As mentioned before, the actions you take to lower stress levels are also linked to the health of your heart.
For example, someone who takes to smoking, drinking alcohol, or binge-eating increases their chances of developing high blood pressure.
However, you can take a different approach to manage your stress, and in effect, improve your overall health.
Healthy Stress Management Tips
According to the American Heart Association, a positive stress response can lower heart disease risks. According to this organisation, there are four recommended techniques to apply.
Learning a few emergency stress stoppers
These include taking deep breaths, counting down from 10, walking away from the stressor, and decomposing the stressful situation into small manageable cases.
Participating in pleasurable activities
If stress makes you feel miserable, then find something that brings your spirits up and cheers you up.
Reaffirming your abilities to yourself is a proven and recommended technique for handling stress. By talking to yourself positively, you lower the overwhelming feelings associated with the stressful condition.
Although you cannot avoid stress, experiencing stress for too long and at high levels is harmful to your health. You stand exposed to health factors like heart attack, high blood pressure, and sometimes death.
So, answer the question at hand; can stress increase the risk of heart disease? Yes, yes it can!
Instead, find better and healthy ways to manage stress.