Stress and its Effects on the Heart
Stress, that indestructible bug! We certainly don’t love it, we can hate it as much as we want, but still can’t ignore it. And as much as we would like to prevent it from taking over us, we know all too well that in the end, stress always wins. But of course, not all stress is bad. Good and bad stress can affect us in different ways.
Emotions, both positive and negative play games on our mind and body. And stress feeds off these emotions, mostly the negative type. And worse, if left unmanaged, stress can eventually lead to physical, emotional, and psychological problems. A majority of our modern day illnesses can be attributed to stress. Heart disease is one of them. So how does stress exactly affect the heart? Well, here’s how:
- Anxiety is the result of stress and the two go hand in hand. Stress feeds off anxiety. When under stress, the body goes into a ‘fight or flight’ response mode, causing it to get tense. This action raises the blood pressure causing your heart to work harder than normal.
- Stress damages the interior lining of the blood vessels. When encountered with damage of this sort, the immune system sends platelets to the rescue. Platelets attach to the inner walls to begin the healing process and this eventually causes arterial thickening.
- It causes the release of fatty acids and glucose into the bloodstream, which is later converted into natural fat and cholesterol that deposit in the blood vessels constricting blood flow.
- It interferes with the body’s healing mechanism, resulting in slower repair of injuries, including those caused to the heart. This means longer recovery time from traumatic conditions.
- Stress can trigger unhealthy habits such as smoking, alcohol dependence, overeating, excessive consumption of caffeinated beverages, and addiction to prescription drugs. It has been found that cigarettes and consuming excessive caffeine can increase the heart rate by an average of 18 beats per minute, which when combined with stress, can raise it by 38 beats per minute.
Effects of Chronic Stress on the Heart
- Chronic stress and elevated levels of cortisol can result in increased fat deposition around the abdomen area and a general increase in weight, both of which are significant risk factors for heart disease.
- A constantly raised heart rate can also lead to abnormal heart rhythm or problems in the heart muscle itself.
- Chronic stress can lead to hypertension, as well as an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Increased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides can cause arteries to thicken over time leading to coronary artery disease and heart attack.
Stress cannot be eliminated entirely and regardless of whether it affects heart health or not, it can still negatively impact the body in numerous other ways. And since it is nearly impossible to get rid of it anytime soon, it is vital that it should be managed now and managed well!