The Truth About Heart Problems Due to Stress
We are, more and more, hearing of instances where people are diagnosed with heart problems due to stress. Job stress or work related stress is an unavoidable reality. The fact that Stress has a direct impact on one’s heart has also been proved in numerous studies and researches. What has now been established is that job stress and heart health are directly related. While job stress cannot be avoided and thus the health of the heart will suffer, the good news is that you can counter it with certain lifestyle changes.
People who suffer from strenuous stress due to their jobs are at a higher risk of having cardiovascular problems including heart attacks and have a similarly high chance of dying from a heart problem. However, this possibility can be reduced if a person lives an active lifestyle, doesn’t drink regularly, is not obese and doesn’t smoke.
What Research Has to Say
A research was conducted at University College London recently where as many as seven studies were taken into consideration to ascertain the implications of stress on the health of the heart and to what extent lifestyle changes can be beneficial. The seven studies collectively had surveyed about 102,000 people across Europe. The participants did not have any heart problems or cardiovascular conditions at the start of the study. All the participants were observed for a period of seven years. Among the 102,000 people, about 1,100 people suffered heart attacks and many died from heart diseases during the seven years of the study.
At the start of the study, only 15% of all participants reported of being under stress due to their jobs. The study showed that the risk of heart problems existed in about 12 people among 1,000 who lived a healthy life but that ratio rose to 31 people among 1,000 who were under job stress but didn’t live a healthy life.
How Do We Develop Heart Problems Due to Stress?
Heart problems developed due to stress are mostly related to the body’s neuroendometabolic (NEM) stress response. This automatic response system prepares your body for a rapid physical response to a stressful situation by producing adrenaline and cortisol. At this time, your heart rate and blood pressure are both elevated and your cardiac output increased. Functions deemed non-essential for survival are shut down or decreased and blood is moved to areas deemed important for immediate survival, such as the arms and legs.
When the blood is moved around the body from areas deemed less essential for survival to those deemed more important, the result is higher blood pressure during this stressful period.
The problem comes in when the stress does not lessen or go away but is persistent. The body’s automatic NEM stress response ends up working at full throttle for a long period, which has a negative impact on the heart.
Constantly elevated blood pressure from a sympathetic nervous system on overdrive damages the inner lining of your blood vessels. These damaged areas are perfect spots for the accumulation of sugar, fat, and cholesterol particles, causing inflammation and ultimately constrictions. Another result of the NEM stress response is that the stress hormones cause blood clotting. This thicker blood causes constantly elevated blood pressure and an accelerated heart rate.
The end result is a possible stroke or heart attack.
Symptoms of Heart Problems Due to Stress
- You have an irregular heartbeat
It’s normal to have a racing heart when excited. The problem, however, is when your heart starts racing for no apparent reasons or when it happens often
- A cold sweat for no reason
Breaking out in a cold sweat for no apparent reason is a classic symptom of an impending heart attack. Have it checked out immediately.
- Swollen feet, ankles, and legs
These are classic signs that your blood is not circulating as it should and that your heart is not pumping blood effectively. Bloating is also common.
- You are easily exhausted
Sudden exhaustion after a non-strenuous activity points towards heart disease. This kind of exhaustion, usually accompanied by feelings of weakness, is a classic indicator of a deeper lying problem related to the heart
- Discomfort in the chest area
This is a typical sign of a blocked artery. The chest area may experience pain, pressure, or a feeling of tightness.
Treating the Cause, Not the Symptom
The easiest way of preventing heart problems due to stress is to remove yourself from the stressful situation. This would be easy in a perfect world but not so easily done in the world we live in. There are, however, a few things to be done in order to either manage or reduce stress.
When anger or rage strike, take a few deep breaths and remind yourself what rage does to your cortisol levels and thus your heart. Try relaxing.
Do not bottle things up
When in a stressful situation, try to talk about things in order to allow the situation to diffuse.
Where possible, avoid situations that you know cause your stress levels to rise.
Meditation is a proven method of lowering blood pressure and inducing relaxation.
Moderate exercise eases stress and helps combat depression while cleaning arteries at the same time.
The proper diet goes a far way towards combating heart-related issues while keeping blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels in check. A low-glycemic diet is wonderful for those dealing with constant mental stress.
Summary of Heart Problems Due to Stress
In a nutshell, the fact is that job stress increases the chances of heart attacks and other heart problems but that situation can be aggravated further by having more than three or four alcoholic drinks a day, by regular smoking, lack of exercise and obesity.
Quitting the cigarette, the pint at the end of the day, heading for a walk for an hour or even half an hour a day, and eating healthy food are the changes that one must bring into their lifestyle to combat job stress and counter its impact on heart health.