Stress and Heart Disease: How Does Your Body Handle Stress?

women stressed with a bowl on head which could cause heart disease
When constantly stressed, you’re causing damage to your body including your heart.

Everyone encounters stressful situations from time to time. But how often you experience stress and how you react to it may have an impact on your overall health. Unmanaged stress can negatively impact almost every aspect of your life. Stress and heart disease isn’t a good combination as chronic stress has also been linked to heart issues.

It can make your body feel achy, wreak havoc on your sleep and affect your productivity. Stress can cause depression, insomnia, digestive problems, overeating, skin conditions and a weakened immune response. Unfortunately, you can’t avoid stress as it’s a normal part of everyday life, but here’s how your reaction to it affects your heart.

Stress And Your Heart

Although more research is needed to determine the exact connection between stress and heart disease, one thing is known for sure. When you’re under stress, you’re more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors that aren’t good for your heart. These unhealthy activities include overeating, drinking alcohol, using drugs and smoking. These habits can increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels, major heart disease risk factors.

Here’s what is known about the connection between stress and heart health:

  • Chronic stress creates unhealthy levels of stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. The constant release of stress hormones can contribute to heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • Adrenaline prepares your body for a “fight or flight” response – so it temporarily increases your heart rate and blood pressure. When your body constantly experiences stress, this hormone continually keeps your heart rate and blood pressure elevated.
  • Cortisol appears to play a role in the accumulation of belly fat. This creates a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  • High levels of stress tend to encourage harmful behaviors such as overeating, drinking too much alcohol, using drugs and smoking, putting your heart at risk.
  • Some research links stress to changes in the way blood clots and damage to your arteries, which may increase the risk of a heart attack.

Lower Your Risk

Learning to manage a healthy lifestyle can lower your risk of heart disease.

The Bottom Line?

Stress isn’t healthy. If you’re stressed, chances are your heart is, too.

Finding ways to effectively manage stress can help your heart and improve your overall physical and emotional health. The key to managing stress is identifying the causes of your stress and then coming up with ways to cope with or avoid them.

 

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