Monday, November 17, 2014

Does Stress affect the Heart?

How Stress Affects the Heart, and 3 Ways to Manage it

stress wordcloud

Everyone knows that stress is not good for them, but how does it affect the heart specifically?

New research published in the Telegraph suggests that stress can lead to inflammation of the blood vessels in the heart, which can increase the risk of heart attacks.

This is the first time scientists believe there is a direct biological link between stress and inflammation of blood vessels which can lead to heart attacks.

Stress triggers our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism, and this sends a surge of adrenalin to help the heart pump harder and increase blood flow to enable the body to fight or run when encountering a perceived threat.

When a person is stressed, the immune system is sent into overdrive, and produces an increased number of white blood cells. This causes inflammation in the arteries. If arteries are already thickened with plaque, this can have very serious consequences.

An already damaged artery, that becomes more inflamed, can produce lesions which can break away, leaving a wound that blood platelets and clotting proteins rush to fill, which is dangerous.

Previously it was known that a high white blood cell count could indicate inflammation but Dr Nahrendorf’s team believes it is actually triggering inflammation.

Clearly being stressed is not good for the health, but stresses occur naturally, and are part of every day life. They are unavoidable, but there are things that can be done to reduce stress, and alleviate it when symptoms hit.

1. Learn How to Relax

Sounds crazy, but a lot of people lead full-tilt lifestyles, and so even when they have down time they do not know how to relax. Allowing your body to relax is very important to reducing stress. Meditation, breathing exercises, yoga or other exercise, laughter, are all great ways to relax. To learn more, check out this Web MD article about 10 Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress:

2. Eat to Reduce Stress

What you eat can impact how stressed you feel. Eating foods that encourage serotonin production, can help reduce stress hormones. Dark chocolate (eaten in moderation) is an example of such a food.

3. Identify triggers and try to avoid them:

Running late can induce stress. Having money problems can induce stress. Taking on too many obligations can induce stress. Poor health can induce stress. If you want to protect your heart, and reduce and avoid unnecessary stress, it is time to take a minute to identify your key stress triggers, and what you can do about them. For example, if money issues are a big stress for you, create a budget, take a class on managing finances, or get some help. If running late causes you stress, set your clocks ahead, wake up a little earlier, and find ways to prepare yourself the day before or ahead of time so you aren’t trying to gather and do as you are running out the door. If you can find ways to avoid your stress triggers you will have a lot less stress in your day-to-day life.