Stress Series: Stress and the Heart

Your health and stress go hand in hand. They are connected on a physiological level that many of us may not realize. Unhealthy stress that is persistent and constant can have a profound effect throughout your body. Stress is a normal part of life, but when it becomes a pervasive part of each and every day, it can pose some serious strain and damage, particularly on your heart. That is why it is so important to recognize when it does become chronic so that it can be addressed and managed in order to avoid any potentially harmful health risks in the future.

Chronic Stress

Stress is a natural, healthy part of life. It has been a mechanism that has contributed to the survival of our species for millennia. Persistent stress however, is something that has emerged with the evolution of the modern society – the hustle and bustle of city life and the hectic, busy schedules and daily lifestyles that so many of us take on. In the modern era, instead of stress preparing our bodies for a fight or flight reflex, it has become more like an engine that remains idling in the background, constantly.

The  “on” and “off” switches that in our evolutionary past had initiated the cascade of biological reactions for fight, flight  or freeze responses, have faded. Our bodies simply remain on alert mode, which causes a great amount of strain on the whole organism.

Stress on the Heart

When the body is stuck in a constant stressful mode, the health of your body and heart suffers. When enduring continual negative energy, people often turn to destructive habits for temporary relief, such as over-eating, excessive alcohol consumption, or smoking. These harmful habits can contribute to variety of health effects, including heart disease. When stress is present, it releases cortisol and adrenaline, which quicken your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.  This added physical stress can deteriorate the strength of your arteries, turn into chronic high blood pressure, or even cause a heart attack.

How to Manage Stress

Destressing your body and mind requires constant efforts that provide relief. Exercise and mediation are two of the most fundamental methods for coping with stress and alleviating it. By engaging in physical exercise, you remove some of the pressure placed on your body by increasing oxygen flow, regenerating cells and, most importantly, calming your body and mind. You may also find it helpful to speak with a therapist to identify your stressors, develop healthy responses to stress, and learn destressing techniques.