Stress and Your Heart

Stress can wreak havoc on the body in many different ways. It has a huge impact not only on the overall health and well-being, but also on the health of individual organs. Chronic stress can be a risk factor in the development of a number of illnesses such as high blood pressure, heart disease or coronary artery disease, stroke, diabetes, psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety, and some forms of cancer. It is important to understand the negative effects of stress so as to take preventive measures against these conditions.

Stress causes your heart to work harder and faster than under normal circumstances. It induces the release of stress hormones in the body, namely adrenaline and cortisol, which put extra pressure on the heart. Anything that puts a lot of stress on the heart can eventually lead to a reduction of blood flow or decreased oxygen supply to areas of the heart supplied by various coronary arteries. It can cause angina due to decreased blood supply to the heart muscle or eventually result in myocardial infarction wherein an area of the heart tissue dies. The symptoms of these forms of coronary artery disease are left-sided chest pain which may radiate to the left arm or back, perspiration, difficulty breathing, palpitations, nausea, and weakness.

Acute or chronic stress can also lead to arrhythmia which refers to an abnormal heart rhythm. It can aggravate any pre-existing illness of the heart and cause further deterioration of the condition. Stress exacerbates the effects of other risk factors of heart disease such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, being overweight or obese, and smoking. If you are stressed out, you are less likely to eat a healthy diet and exercise. If you are a smoker, you are more likely to indulge in smoking during a stressful time.

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Stress management is extremely important for maintaining a healthy heart and preventing heart disease. Stress alone has been known to cause fatal heart attacks in people with previously undiagnosed heart disease and even in the absence of other significant risk factors like a family history of heart disease. Stress can be unavoidable in many circumstances, but there are various techniques that you can use to cope with it and live happily.

One of the most basic and effective ways of lowering stress is exercise. It can be highly beneficial as it leads to the release of endorphins in the body. Endorphins are chemicals that create a state of happiness and well-being in the body and alleviate stress. Exercise also helps to keep your body fit and has been known to lower the heart rate in people who exercise regularly. It is recommended to do brisk walking or other cardiovascular exercises for at least 20 to 30 minutes three to four times during the week. A healthy and balanced diet including the reduced intake of salt and fatty or cholesterol-rich foods is also essential to maintain optimal health of the heart and arteries.

Meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and following your hobbies and interests are a few ways of dealing with stress. You can seek professional help in the form of counseling if you are unable to cope with the stress on your own. Family and friends can also be a great source of support during difficult times. The degree of stress that a particular situation evokes can vary from individual to individual. Changing the way you respond to stressful circumstances and keeping a positive attitude towards life can go a long way for your own betterment.