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Home >> Stress And Heart Diseases  

 Stress And Heart Diseases

One of the factors that plays a role in the development of heart disease is the way people react to stress and deal with it. It has long been known that heart rate and blood pressure rise sharply when people get upset. In fact, the circulatory system has evolved to send increased amount of blood to the voluntary muscles in response to threatening situations that require direct and immediate action. Rising heart rate and increased blood pressure are the two mechanisms that facilitate sending increased amounts of blood to the brain and muscles in an emergency. The circulatory system is designed to work efficiently when people had brief periods of challenge, stress or danger followed by a brief period of recovery and a long period of relaxation. The system does not work as well when people are under long periods of intense stress, or even under constant, low-level stress.

When people stay in an aroused state, or face problems that they feel they cannot solve easily, their body remains in a perpetual state of alertness that eventually becomes habitual. It is as if they remain 'in danger' — mentally on alert most of the time, with fewer than normal periods of recovery and relaxation. When this continues for a long period of time, stress hormones rise and remain elevated. As a result, cholesterol levels in the blood increase and platelets become stickier, both of which promote the process of plaque formation. At the same time, heart rate and blood pressure rise and can remain elevated. As a result, the blood hits the artery walls more forcefully and damage is done to the cells lining the arteries. Finally, stress can cause blood vessels to spasm and can affect the rhythm of the heart, conditions that can deprive the heart of the oxygen-rich blood it needs to pump effectively. Stress contributes to the progression of atherosclerosis and a reduction in the amount of blood pumped to the heart muscle itself. These are critical factors in the development of angina, heart attacks and strokes. There is evidence that people can be taught to readjust their reactions to stress and learn how to truly relax. Dealing with stress and learning to relax lowers stress hormones and blood pressure, thus reducing risk factors for atherosclerosis. One of the big advantages to this approach is that it has no side effects as drugs sometimes do, and it can help to enhance the quality of a person's life.

Signs Of Significant Stress

  • Tension, anxiety
  • Agitation, restlessness, inability to relax
  • Constant worrying
  • Sense of time pressure
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Apathy, sadness
  • Feelings of insecurity or worthlessness
  • Feelings of powerlessness or inability to cope
  • Frequent irritability, argumentativeness, and/or anger
  • Defensiveness
  • Arrogance, grandiosity
  • Procrastination, chronic lateness
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Poor appearance
  • Legal problems
  • Frequent illness or accidents
  • Crying spells
  • Nervous indigestion
  • Compulsive eating
  • Compulsive smoking
  • Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Use of tranquillizers or recreational drugs to relax

To manage stress effectively, you must be able to:

  • Recognize when you are feeling overstressed.
  • Identify the causes of stress in your life, change those you can, and learn to live with those you cannot.
  • Recognize your limitations.
  • Relax
  • Try to understand why the situation is so distressing.
  • Think about ways you can keep yourself from having this experience again.
  • Minimize the effects of stress on your body and mind.


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