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How stress affects the heart

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how stress affects the heart

Although the exact mechanisms of the mind-body interaction are still unclear, emotional stress has been shown to influence a wide variety of illnesses. Discover the impact of stress on the heart.

Other hands, if they become permanent or are too intense, can be harmful.

Stress can affect almost any general illness, as we have already mentioned. Including those whose production mechanism is well known. Coronary heart disease, for example, or diabetes, as well as migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.

How does stress affect the heart and cardiovascular system?

The negative relationship that exists between stress and ischemic heart disease was demonstrated almost 20 years ago through the study of patients with coronary heart disease. Then a lot of other research confirmed this link. However, the exact mechanisms by which this happens are still unclear.

Several hypotheses have been made that emotional stress could trigger acute myocardial infarction, increased blood pressure, heart rate, vascular tone, and even platelet aggregation capacity. All of these are closely linked to the release of neurotransmitters.

The significant increase in heart rate and blood pressure could lead to an increase in the heart’s demand for oxygen. Under certain conditions, that is, in patients who are at greater risk, this can lead to an acute infarction.

All of these factors also refer to certain abnormalities in the autonomic nervous system. This is the neural part that is responsible for involuntary actions such as breathing or the beating of the heart.

If the person has established risk factors, such as the presence of atheromatous plaques in the small arteries, then the nervous system discharge could lead to a stroke. In other words, the atheroma rupture and blocks circulation, thereby interrupting the flow of oxygen to the tissues.

In addition, it should be noted that stressful situations of everyday life can lead to an increase in the number of cigarettes smoked by consumers. In some people, stress also leads to a tendency to malnutrition, resulting in an increase in blood cholesterol.

Symptoms of stress affecting the heart

Some people are more likely than others to suffer from symptoms of stress. Either because of their personality, or for real-life situations. For these people, it is fundamental to develop mechanisms that allow them to deal in a healthier way with the triggers that destabilize them.

One of the typical symptoms of stress affecting the heart is palpitations. 

These are accelerations of the heartbeat, with tachycardia, which resembles drumming in the chest. Chest pain can also be a manifestation of this.

Tips for dealing with stress and its effects on the heart

Recognition of the close link between stressors and various heart diseases should encourage the development of prevention strategies .

In fact, the prevention of cardiovascular phenomena is possible if, in addition to diet and physical exercise, we implement stress reduction techniques. Some relaxation strategies can be useful in case of serious emotional difficulties. Ideally,  stress triggers should also be avoided.

In general, the goal of a stress management program is to decrease the impact on the person. Stressors will never be completely eliminated, but it is possible to limit them. Likewise, it is possible to contain them and transform them into stimuli for individual improvement.

When to see a doctor

It is impossible to predict the magnitude of the stress that will affect every individual’s heart. Despite everything, the identification of problematic situations, such as bereavement, for example, should alert us to the need to seek professional help in order to prevent negative consequences.

In addition, it is strongly advised to adopt healthy habits. More specifically, a healthy and balanced diet, avoid smoking and consuming excess alcohol, then perform regular physical activity, preferably aerobic. Another factor that reduces anxiety is sleep routine.

Finally, as much as possible,  we should avoid or decrease stressful situations. This will have a positive impact not only on the health of the heart but also on the general well-being.

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