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How Stress Can Affect your Heart

Stress is an inevitable part of life; Work, family, finances and relationships can all cause unnecessary stress and anxiety. While not all stress is bad for you, ongoing, chronic stress can negatively affect your heart.

How Does Stress Affect the Heart?

Stress that goes unmanaged can cause the following health conditions that also impact your heart health:

  1.   High Blood Pressure: The surge of hormones produced when in a stressful situation increases your blood pressure by causing your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow. High blood pressure can lead to both coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. 
  2.  Irregular Heart Rhythm:  Irregular heart rhythms, also known as heart palpitations and arrhythmia, can result in feeling like your heart is skipping a beat, pounding or speeding up quickly. While it is not known exactly why stress can cause irregular heartbeats, the adrenaline caused by a surge in hormones is the most common reason.
  3. Damage to Arteries: Chronic stress causes direct aging of the arteries. According to recent research by Johns Hopkins Medical School, individuals who react to stress with anger and frustration has 20 times of arterial aging. Extensive damage to the arteries can cause elevated blood pressure and heart disease. 
  4. Higher Cholesterol Levels: Studies show that mental stress can raise LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower HDL (good cholesterol). If stress is impacting the amount of HDL your body is producing, how effectively HDL cleans up additional LDL is also affected. 

Tips to Manage Stress and Improve Heart Health

Here are some simple tips you can use to manage stress and keep your heart healthy:

  • Keep a positive, realistic attitude when a stressful situation presents itself. You might not be in control of the situation, but you’re in control of how you respond.
  • Start an exercise routine. The endorphins released during exercise can counteract the negative hormones released during stress. 
  • Spend time with the people you love. Laughing and being around positive people might undo the effects of stress on your body.
  • Focus on getting an adequate amount of sleep so you can handle stressful situations better. 

Do you have questions about your heart? Contact Pentucket Medical Cardiology at (888) 227-3762 to find out more about stress and heart health.