How does stress affect your heart? While under stress, our hypothalamus, a tiny control center in our brain sends out signals to release stress hormones. When this happens, your heart races and your breath quickens. This response was designed to protect your body in an emergency by preparing you to react quickly. But when the stress response keeps firing, day after day, it could put your health at serious risk.
Under stress, your heart pumps faster than normal. Stress hormones cause your blood vessels to constrict and divert more oxygen to your muscles so you’ll have more strength to take action, but this also raises your blood pressure. Frequent or chronic stress increases the workload of the heart, making your heart work harder and for a prolonged period. When your blood pressure rises, this increases your risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
So how can we handle stress in healthy ways?
Eat and drink to optimize your health: Consuming a healthy, balanced diet can help to combat stress.
Exercise regularly: In addition to having physical health benefits, exercise has proven to be an effective stress reliever.
Smoking cessation and discontinuation of nicotine products: Nicotine is often used as a stress reliever. However, nicotine has the opposite effect and actually increases stress on the body. It constricts arteries and increases heart rate, which reduces blood flow and breathing.
Study and practice relaxation techniques: Take time to relax daily. Relaxing helps to manage stress and protect the body from the adverse effects of stress.
Reduce stressful triggers: Life may be filled with too many demands and very little time. It's important to practice time management skills such as asking for help when appropriate, set priorities, pace yourself, and reserve time for self-care.
Set achievable goals and expectations: Be mindful of things you can control and work on accepting things you cannot. Even if you are not suffering from chronic stress, it is important to take the necessary steps to protect your cardiovascular health.
Here at North Suffolk Cardiology, our mission is to care for your heart health and help you learn more about cardiovascular issues. If you have any concerns about your cardiovascular health, our highly skilled team of cardiologists will provide you with expert care.
Please call (631) 941-2000 to schedule an appointment.