Stress and Heart Disease

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Stress can cause our heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure to rise. This is a normal response and can be necessary at certain times. However, when stress sticks around for long periods of time, it can start to take a toll on the body. This includes many of our internal organs, including the heart.


How Stress Affects the Heart

When stress is prolonged and poorly managed, a higher level of the hormone cortisol lingers in the body. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, “Studies suggest that the high levels of cortisol from long-term stress can increase blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure.” An elevation in these factors leads to a higher risk of heart disease. Chronic stress has also been shown to increase the rate at which plaque builds up in arteries. While day-to-day stresses are normal and inevitable, our response in managing these stresses has a direct impact on our heart health.


Managing Stress in a Healthy Way

We cannot always control when stressful situations happen, but we can respond with a collection of healthy stress management techniques. These techniques are too numerous to mention here, but practiced regularly, they are sure to help you maintain health and emotional balance.

Having a strong support system is also a great way to cope with stress. Research has shown that support from family, friends, coworkers, organizations, or religious groups can lower stress. Encouragement, accountability, and assistance from others can also help keep healthy behaviors more consistent.

If stress becomes overwhelming or you’re noticing signs of anxiety or depression, talk to your doctor right away.

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Written by BWS Lead Health Coach- Kelly Schlather, BS, ASCM – CEP