Stress is a standard component of everyday life. Several physical factors like lack of sleep or having an illness and psychological factors like worrying about financial problems or the death of a loved one can cause stress. In addition, lesser severe causes like pressure from work and family obligations that make you feel like you are not in control can also cause stress.
Can stress cause heart attack? Unfortunately, the answer will always be yes. Every factor mentioned above can lead to chronic stress and heart issues due to stress.
Mental stress and your physiological response have been evolved to protect you. But, if you are consistently experiencing it, it can lead to chronic stress and harm you in several ways.
Cortisol, one of the stress hormones, is released in response to mental stress. The higher levels of Cortisol induce high blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglycerides – typical risk factors for heart disease. These stressful situations can also promote plaque deposits in the arteries.
Even minor emotional stress can induce heart health problems like lower blood flow to the heart muscle, a condition in which the heart never receives enough blood or oxygen. And extreme stress influences how the blood clots and turns the blood stickier, thereby increasing the risk of stroke. Relying on alcohol, smoking, and other toxic ways to deal with stress also increase the risk of heart disease.
Some of the common psychological and physiological responses to stress are:
- Body pain
- Chest pain
- Decreased energy and disturbed sleep
- Feelings of anxiety, temper, and depression
Different people deal with managing stress and responding to stressful situations differently. Some react impulsively to stressful situations while others do it in a relaxed and calm manner. Luckily, several ways are open for you to reduce stress and its effects on your body and mind. First, you should identify stressful situations. It may seem complicated, but you can control your psychological and physical reactions to these stressful situations.
Here are some of the ways that help you in managing stress and sustain good heart health.
- Exercise Builds Good Heart Health
Regular exercise can reduce the levels of stress and heart attack. At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week is recommended for good heart health. This exercise regime can be done in 30 to 40-minute sessions, four to five days a week. Apart from improving heart health, exercise can help you control body weight and bring down high blood pressure and blood cholesterol.
Exercise also comes with another advantage to reduce stress. People who exercise regularly have a lower physical response to stress. They attain the ability to keep heart rates and blood pressure at normal levels than people who experience anxiety and don’t exercise. The chances of depression, one of the risk factors for heart disease, are also reduced by regular exercise.
Do you need more inspiration for exercise? A pedometer can help. The device tracks each step you take every day or during a walk. It also gives you instant feed and credits for every tiny physical activity you do, like climbing the stairs instead of choosing an elevator. More than helping you maintain your body weight, it reduces your chances of heart failure and heart attack.
- A Strong Support System Matters
A solid support system like family or your partner, close friendships, or other circles of like-minded people can help you deal with chronic stress symptoms and bring down your stress level and the risk of heart disease.
If you are a person who already has heart disease, a support system can bring down your risk for heart failure and heart attack. Having at least one reliable person in your life can take a heavy burden off your shoulder and provide comfort. Besides, a solid support system helps you take better care of yourself.
- Get Treatment for Extreme Stress and Anxiety
Extreme stress and anxiety bring a bundle of risk factors for heart disease. Alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine induce mental stress and interfere with your ability to deal with chronic stress.
Cutting back or quitting these addictive substances will improve your ability to deal with chronic stress symptoms and reduce your emotional stress. To ward off the release of stress hormones and emotional stress, you can take up activities like yoga, walking, meditation, or various other physical activities. These activities also help you in managing stress.
More than anything else, never shy away from consulting with your doctor if you have feelings of extreme stress, depression, or anxiety.
- Bring Down Work Stress
It has been proven that a low-paying job with high work pressure that doesn’t promote personal yet professional growth increases your risk of heart disease.
To solve this work-related dilemma, the one thing you can do is to gain control over your environment. Take some time away from work regularly. Engage in enjoyable activity that relaxes you. It may be reading, walking, or meditation. You can ask for an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) from your employer if your company doesn’t offer one. This program assists you in managing stress and anxiety. In addition, the service of a counselor is of great help to lower your work-related mental stress.
If you are doubtful about your increased risk for heart disease because of your emotional stress, consult with your doctor. They may assist you with professional counseling, motivational classes, or other programs to reduce your stress level and risk for heart disease.
The physician-in-chief at Sir Mortimer B. Davis-Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, Dr. Ernesto L. Schiffrin, pointed out a study conducted by The Lancet in 2017 to describe the links between emotional stress and heart health.
“Adopting a calm mind in the face of challenges in life,” he said, “may help improve the perception of chronic stress and result in a better quality of life and better heart health,” Schiffrin confirms that chronic stress is deeply associated with cardiovascular activities. Therefore, heart issues due to stress are not speculation but a scientifically backed fact.