How Stress Affects Your Heart

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Stress is all around us, a normal part of our daily lives. There isn’t much we can do about external factors that bring about stress, but there is a lot we can do to manage stress levels in a healthy way. This is important because stress, while emotional and mental in most respects, can have adverse effects on our physical health.

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Even more crucial is the fact that stress affects your heart. There is even a theory that suggests that stress may cause heart attacks. While further studies are needed to confirm this, there are also other studies that show an increase in the risk for heart disease due to different kinds of stress – work-related stress, financial stress, caregiver stress, and disaster-related stress.

How stress affects your heart

Dr. Cesar Yepes a well trained, highly experienced cardiologist, whose specialty lies in interventional, as well as the field of non-invasive cardiologist including transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiography and nuclear cardiology, believes that there is a correlation between stress and heart health. He identifies stress as one of the reasons people have heart issues. Let’s take a look at some ways stress affects your heart.

Stress can lead to bad habits that increase the risk of heart attack.

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When something stresses a person out, he or she may recourse to “comfort” activities which may not be healthy. These include smoking, overeating, and drinking too much alcohol. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a heart surgeon, for that matter) to know that these habits can only lead to health issues down the road.

Stress has a direct effect on the cardiovascular system.

The cardiovascular system includes the heart, blood vessels, and blood. When your stress levels are high, your heart rate goes up and the flow of blood in your body goes faster as well. This results in higher blood pressure.

When your body is under constant stress, your heart can possibly develop abnormal rhythm problems, or your heart muscles can develop problems as well. Additionally, high blood pressure due to constant stress can develop into hypertension and other complications that may lead to a heart attack, which can eventually damage your heart arteries through arterosclerosis and atheromatosis that is essentially producing an obstruction in the blood flow to your heart.

What are some ways you can reduce stress?

Knowing just how stress can affect your heart, don’t you think it’s imperative that you are able to manage your stress levels? It’s easy enough to say that you will reduce stress, but the implementation is not all that simple.

Dr. Cesar Yepes says, “It depends on culture and priorities. We should start with putting the priorities in order. Creating a balance between personal time, family time, work time, and couples time is important.”

If you’re really serious about reducing stress in your life, you need to set boundaries – boundaries between work and personal life, family/friend obligations and your own life, and so on. Having these boundaries will ensure that you have time for yourself and what makes you happy.

For many a modern person, stress comes from the workplace. If you have a hint that you may be a workaholic, maybe it’s time that you actually take a step back and examine yourself, being as honest as you can be.

“Honesty in all aspects of our lives, having no secrets, and exercise is very helpful. Doing things that are fun. Stop being people pleasers. Express your emotions on time. Use relaxation techniques like breathing, meditation, and yoga. Analyze if we are or are not workaholics,” says Dr. Cesar Yepes.

What are some heart healthy tips you should follow?

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More than reducing stress, you should also pay attention to your physical condition. If you already know that you have a family history of heart disease, then you should be even more careful. Dr. Cesar Yepes advises his patients to “be conscious about the risk factors for coronary artery disease such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, family history, alcohol, and obesity.” If you have no idea about your family history in this regard, you ought to take a look and find out.

Additionally, you should look at a heart-healthy diet, which features food items such as fruit, vegetables, low-fat sources of protein, and low-salt dishes.

Another thing that contributes a lot to heart health is getting enough physical exercise. You do not have to be a gym rat to have a healthy heart. You just need to make sure that you are not sedentary most of the time. At least a 30-minute walk every other day is a good way to start.

Here’s a simple formula: subtracting your age from the number 220 will give you a “magic number”. If your heart rate reaches 85 % of that number at the end of your maximum effort, that could be an effective cardiac exercise. Also, make sure you engage in aerobic exercise.

You may not feel the effects of stress on your body right now, but they do add up over the years. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and do something to reduce stress in your life and take care of you heart now, don’t you think?


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