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Stress is Killing You – Literally

Numerous daily activities can make the body feel stressed. Though everyone has a different way of reacting to stress and threshold of stress they can bear, these factors can cause a host of health problems. Of these, one of them is heart disease.

How stress ruins heart health

It is believed that stress can worsen the risk factors that are responsible for heart disease, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, etc. A person under stress is likely to have high blood pressure, more likely to overeat, exercise less and take up smoking – all of these increase the risk of heart problems.

Another thought is that stress may itself be a risk factor of heart disease. Over long periods of time, stress causes an increase of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in the body. A stressed body may also affect how blood clots, increasing the risk of a heart attack.

How is stress caused?

Stress could result from physical, emotional or environmental changes that demand certain changes or response from the person affected by them. The stress factors could be small everyday hassles or life changing events, or both. Some examples include:

  • Work pressure, unemployment
  • Financial burdens
  • Illness of self or dear one, or death
  • Strained relationships
  • Daily routine activities like taking care of kids, home, etc.

Signs of stress

The body sends warning signals when it is stressed, indicating the need to take a break before it affects health. Stress is manifested in form of physical, emotional, mental and behavioural signs:

  • Physical – Body aches, headaches, dizziness, tension in muscles, weight gain or loss, sleep loss, sweaty palms
  • Emotional – Feelings of anger, mood swings depression, anxiety, irritability
  • Mental Worry, indecisiveness, lack of concentration, poor memory
  • Behavioural – Overeating, substance abuse, withdrawal from work and social interactions, irrational actions with people

Coping with stress for a healthy heart

Everyone reacts to stress differently. For those who realise how stress is affecting the quality of their life and their heart, certain methods can help manage stress.

  • Regular exercise – Exercise releases endorphins, substances that improve mood and help a person develop a positive outlook. A 30-minute physical activity on most days of the week is useful in keeping stress at bay, and consequently the heart healthy.
  • Healthy eating and drinking – People tend to eat and drink more when stressed. However, eating in moderation and consuming healthy foods is important in managing stress. Alcohol should also be limited, as it adds to body’s stress.
  • Giving up smoking Nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant that increases stress symptoms apart from causing other health risks.
  • Relaxation techniques – It is important to keep the body and mind relaxed to fight stress. Yoga, meditation, massage therapy, and sleep help the body to recover from stressful events.
  • Work and time management – Setting time for various tasks, prioritising, sticking to a schedule, etc. help keep workload at office and home manageable.

These methods not only help combat stress but also help keep all risk factors of heart disease under check. Say goodbye to stress today!


Sources:

“Heart Disease and Stress,” MedicineNet.com, http://www.medicinenet.com/stress_and_heart_disease/article.htm

“Heart Disease and Stress,” WebMD.com, http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/stress-heart-attack-risk

“Stress and Heart Health,” Heart.org, American Heart Association, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/Stress-and-Heart-Health_UCM_437370_Article.jsp

“The link between stress and heart disease, from the December 2013 Harvard Women’s Health Watch,” Harvard Health Publications, http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/the-link-between-stress-and-heart-disease
“10 Health Problems Related to Stress That You Can Fix,” WebMD.com, R. Morgan Griffin, http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/10-fixable-stress-related-health-problems

 Image courtesy of [FrameAngel] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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