Why Stress Effects Your Heart

  • 3 Oct 2012
  • Reading time 9 mins
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If you ask the man in the street whether stress one of the causes of heart disease, just about everyone will agree and even your doctor will say it’s important to reduce your stress.

Defining stress
Stress is a term we use when under too much pressure. As life gets faster and faster, and harder to make a living, many of us live in a semi-permanent state of stress. Significant changes, health problems, relationship and money problems are common causes of stress. However, it's the daily pressure we feel in response to everyday hassles - like being stuck in traffic, delays in getting things sorted and too many emails - that does as much damage. Stress is both the body and mind's response to any pressure that disrupts our equilibrium. It occurs when your perception of events doesn’t meet your expectations and you are unable to manage your reaction. Our response to stressful events is one of resistance, tension, anxiety and frustration that throws off our physiological and psychological balance, with increased pulse, higher levels of adrenal hormones, inhibition of digestion and all sorts of other changes that, from an evolutionary point of view, gear you up for ‘fight or flight’. Prolonged stress has severe consequences, locking your physiology into an unhealthy state that increases your risk of heart disease. Many of us think we get used to this stress state, living with a low-grade state of anxiety, but insidiously, stress does its damage.

Stress changes what you eat
One of the ways we deal with stress is to eat comfort food, drink alcohol or use caffeine or sugar to keep going. These are coping mechanisms that, in turn, increase your cardiovascular risk. In a poll, 46% of people, when stressed, are less careful about their food choices. Some don’t eat, others eat lots of carbs and sugar or fatty foods. Researchers at Ohio State University found that short periods of emotional stress can slow down the body’s process of clearing some fats from the bloodstream possibly contributing to heart disease. Stress also depletes the body of many nutrients, particularly magnesium which helps to relax both your mind and arteries. So, when stressed, it is especially important to eat well yet we often compound the problem by doing exactly the opposite.

How stress affects your heart
According to the American Institute of Stress, up to 90% of all health problems are related to stress. Too much stress can contribute to many health problems including ......

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