Does Stress Impact Your Heart?

You may acknowledge that rushed deadlines, stalled traffic, and other daily stressors can affect your emotional self. Did you know, though, that stress can cause physical changes to your heart?

The cardiac specialists at Premier Cardiology Consultants discuss the effects of stress on your heart, and share tips on how to avoid its consequences.

Understanding your body’s response to stress

Your body has a physical response to stress that’s designed to protect you from what your mind perceives as a threat. This action, triggered by signals from your hypothalamus, prompts the adrenal glands to release a flood of powerful hormones that prepare you for the “fight-or-flight” response to danger.

One of these hormones, adrenaline, increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure, and boosts your energy.

Cortisol, another stress hormone, increases glucose (sugar) levels in the bloodstream. Short-term, this enhances your brain's ability to focus. It also slows other bodily functions that are nonessential during an emergency, such as tasks carried on by the immune, digestive, and reproductive systems.

It’s this stress reaction that can make it possible to lift an impossibly heavy object off someone trapped underneath or move out of the path of a charging rhino.

The effects of prolonged stress on your heart  

Normally, the physiologic changes triggered by stress return to baseline once danger passes. Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t see a difference between your anxiety over heavy afternoon traffic versus your fear of an angry rhino or other physical threat. 

Thus, all those daily stressors you face can keep your body in a constant state of alert, which can lead to: 

In addition, high levels of cortisol triggered by ongoing stress can cause long-term problems with: 

Physiologic changes associated with stress also decrease blood flow to your heart and affect how your blood clots, which increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Fighting back against stress

Eliminating stress from your life is a hard goal to attain. Trying to do so would, in fact, probably stress you out.

You can, however, learn to manage stress by:

These actions can all help retrain your brain to perceive a traffic stall, missed deadline, or busy afternoon as a frustrating inconvenience rather than a life-threatening emergency.

For more information about stress-induced heart disease and its impact on your health, schedule an evaluation at Premier Cardiology Consultants today.  

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