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Understanding the Impact of Stress on Heart Health

Understanding the Impact of Stress on Heart Health

What is chronic stress?

Stress is a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. It’s the body’s natural response to daily challenges or threats.1

It's totally normal to feel stressed occasionally. But if stress seems to be your constant companion, making it difficult to cope, it might be a sign that you need to make some changes. 1

Recognize signs of stress

Stress can make it harder for us to relax and brings a variety of emotions and physical symptoms, including:1,2

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Rashes
  • Tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Alcohol, tobacco, and other substance abuse

Chronic stress can also make existing health issues worse, including heart problems.1

The link between stress and heart diseases

When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which can lead to inflammation in the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease. 2

Chronic stress also makes you more likely to engage in harmful behaviors, such as drinking, smoking, eating comfort food, depriving yourself of sleep, and not being physically active.2

Over time, these unhealthy habits can lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. These are common risk factors for heart disease. 2

Stress management tips

Everyone experiences stress differently, so what's stressing for one person might not be a big deal for another. Figuring out what stresses you out can help you avoid similar situations in the future.3

  • You can also work on reducing the impacts of stress on your body. Here are some practical tips to help you with this task:1,4
  • Keep a daily routine. Establish consistent schedules for meals, exercise, daily chores, and leisure. This helps you manage your time more efficiently and gives you a sense of control.
  • Engage in physical activity. Daily exercise can help lower stress levels. Whether walking or a more intense workout, both can do wonders for your mental health.
  • Have a healthy diet. A balanced diet gives your body the energy it needs to cope with stress. Ensure you eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and stay hydrated by drinking lots of fluids.
  • Stay connected. Share your thoughts and concerns with those you love and trust. Connecting with others lifts your mood; it helps you feel less alone and stressed.
  • Get enough sleep. Sleep and stress are closely linked. When you don’t sleep well, you tend to feel more stressed. On the other hand, stress can make it harder to fall asleep. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. If you’re having trouble with that, seek medical help.
  • Try relaxation techniques. Some examples include meditation, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, tai chi, and yoga.

Key takeaway

Chronic stress can harm your heart health. But simple lifestyle changes can help you avoid the damage. If life's getting too overwhelming, reach out for support.



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