Man having a heart attack

Your Heart on Stress and What You Need to Know About It

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While it is normal for everyone to experience stress from time to time, too much of it can harm your health. When stress becomes excessive or chronic, it can negatively affect your mood, appetite, and sleep, as well as contribute to a number of health issues such as high blood pressure, anxiety, and stomach pain. It can also increase your risk of heart problems.

Stress itself may not necessarily cause heart disease, but it can cause symptoms that can put you at increased risk like high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. It can also promote bad habits or behaviors that can raise your risk of heart disease. These include overeating, smoking cigarettes, drinking excessive alcohol, and avoiding physical activity.

Are you stressed?

Cardiology centers in Richfield note that the symptoms of stress vary from person to person. It can also affect most aspects of life, including your behavior, physical health, cognitive ability, and even your emotions. Some of the symptoms of stress include:

  • Headaches and low energy

  • Stomach pain

  • Muscle aches and pains

  • Feeling overwhelmed (or losing control)

  • Poor sleep/insomnia

  • Feeling anxious or depressed

  • Inability (or difficulty) to concentrate

Stress and heart connection

Stressed out businessmanWhen facing a stressor (e.g. unrealistic deadlines, an overbearing boss, and unexpected bills), your body releases cortisol and adrenaline that can lead to a number of physiological changes. These include muscle tensions, pounding heart, rapid breathing, as well as a temporary increase in blood pressure. This is called the “fight or flight” response, which prepares the body for action.

There are also rare cases where people suffer from a heart attack after receiving something traumatic like the death of a loved one. In fact, according to a study featured in the Harvard Health Blog, those who had lost a partner or a spouse are more likely to have a stroke or a heart attack within the next 30 days. The subjects in the study were ages 60 to 89.

Help and protect your heart

Managing stress can protect your heart and overall health. You can start helping your heart with simple exercises like taking a brisk walk when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed. You can also engage in movement therapies like tai chi and yoga, which also promote relaxation through mental focus and deep breathing.

Other tips that can help manage stress include:

  • Maintaining a positive attitude (or having a good laugh)

  • Practicing meditation (deep breathing exercises, yoga, or prayer)

  • Occasionally unplugging from social media, emails, and TV (even for just a couple of minutes each day)

  • Finding your own stress relievers (like listening to music, taking a long bath, or reading a book)

  • Meeting with friends and loved ones

  • Talking to a therapist

  • Keeping a stress diary (to help you be more aware of the things/situations that can bring your stress)

  • Getting more sleep by focusing on relaxation before going to bed

  • Trying stress management classes

If you, on the other hand, suffer from anxiety, talk to your doctor about it. This is to devise a treatment or a management plan, as well find out if you need medication.

Don’t let stress lead to heart and other health problems. You can also talk to a doctor or cardiologist to learn other ways of protecting your heart and managing stress.

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