The Connection Between Stress and Heart Disease

Stress is a normal part of life, and stressful situations can often leave you feeling tense, anxious, irritable or overwhelmed. But if you have chronic stress, or aren’t managing your stress in a healthy way, it can have negative effects and contribute to serious conditions like heart disease.

How stress affects your heart

When you experience stress, your body releases the hormone adrenaline. Adrenaline temporarily boosts your circulation, blood pressure, heart rate, and carbohydrate metabolism to prepare your muscles for exertion, or the “fight or flight” response to a stressful circumstance, which is quite normal. Chronic stress, however, continually exposes your body to these elevated stress levels for days or weeks at a time, which is potentially harmful. If chronic stress fails to be managed properly, it can cause:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Damaged arteries
  • High cholesterol
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Weakened immunity
  • Higher risk for blood clots

Symptoms of chronic stress

Stress exhibits itself in various ways depending on the individual. Symptoms of chronic stress can manifest as physical, psychological, emotional and behavioral signs.

Physical signs – Physical signs of chronic stress can include dizziness, aches and pains, teeth clenching or grinding, headaches, indigestion, insomnia, weight gain or loss, exhaustion, and increased heart rate.

Psychological signs –Chronic stress can make it difficult to make decisions or to concentrate, and can affect your memory.

Emotional signs – Emotional signs of chronic stress may include anger, uneasiness, anxiety, depression, and mood swings.

Behavioral signs – Chronic stress can contribute to compulsive eating, a critical attitude towards oneself and others, impulsivity, drug and alcohol abuse, and withdrawal from relationships or social situations.

Managing chronic stress

Chronic stress doesn’t have to affect your health. There are many lifestyle changes you can make to help manage your stress in a healthy way and lower your risk for heart disease and harmful conditions:

  • Stop smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Schedule time to relax
  • Set realistic goals and expectations
  • Increase positive thinking
  • Get enough rest
  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Limit caffeine intake
  • Consume a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight

For more information on maintaining your vascular health, or to schedule an appointment, call the vascular specialists at Baton Rouge Vascular Specialty Center today at (225) 769-4493.