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How does stress affect your heart?

Stress, especially long-term stress, can have a big effect on heart health by changing many bodily processes that lead to heart disease. Looking at both direct and secondary ways that stress hurts the heart is important for understanding how stress affects the heart.

Activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System

Our body’s sympathetic nervous system gets active when you’re stressed, which makes stress chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine) come out. These chemicals speed up the heart rate, narrow the blood vessels, and raise blood pressure to get the body ready for a “fight or flight” reaction. When this reaction is activated over and over, it can put stress on the heart and blood vessels.

Increased Blood Pressure

Blood pressure that is too high because of worry makes hypertension more likely, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. Heart attacks and strokes can happen because of long-term high blood pressure. It can hurt the vessels, making them less flexible and more likely to develop atherosclerosis (plaque buildup).

Disruption of the immune system

Stress results in the body releasing chemicals that cause inflammation, which is what causes these reactions. Endothelial failure, plaque formation, and atherosclerosis are all linked to chronic inflammation, which makes heart disease worse. Stress can also make it harder for the immune system to work, which could make inflammation processes in the circulatory system worse.

Rhythm problems with the heart

Stress can throw off the heart’s regular beat, which can cause arrhythmias, like tachycardia (a fast heart rate). Stress-related arrhythmias may raise the chance of bad heart events like heart attacks or rapid cardiac death in people who already have heart problems.

Unhealthy Coping Behaviors

Many people deal with stress by engaging in harmful behaviors like eating too much, smoking, drinking too much booze, or not moving around much. When done for a long time, these habits can lead to obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and other heart disease risk factors.

Psychological Factors

Anxiety, sadness, and social isolation are all psychological factors that are closely linked to stress. All of these have been linked to a higher chance of heart disease. Also, mental worry can have a direct effect on heart health by making platelets stick together more and heart rate variability go down.

Now you know that the effects of stress on the heart are due to the complicated interaction of behavioral, psychological, and physiological variables. There are many healthy ways to cope with stress, check out some advice on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Consult a mental health expert, social worker, or counselor if you are experiencing persistent stress or trauma.