April is Stress Awareness Month, and here at AMS Cardiology, we know how much stress can negatively impact the heart. Although more research is needed to determine the exact effects stress has on heart disease—the leading killer of Americans—stress has been proven time and time again to increase blood pressure, raise cholesterol levels and impact weight; all factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease. Here are three ways stress can impact your heart health—and ways you can reduce your stress—so you can be happier, live healthier and decrease your risk of developing heart disease.
An Increase in Stress Could Mean an Increase in Blood Pressure
When a person is under stress, there are a chain of events that happen in the body that lead to an increase in blood pressure. Initially, stress causes your body to release adrenaline, which is a hormone that causes your heart rate to increase and breathing to speed up. After this occurs, the next event is your body’s response to adrenaline, which results in a rise in your blood pressure. The last event, which may take years to feel the effects of, is how high blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease: high blood pressure has been proven to damage the coronary arteries—the blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygen-rich blood—by causing the heart to become more narrow due to a buildup of fat, cholesterol and plaque.
More Stress May Lead to Higher Cholesterol Levels
Some (or perhaps most) people live with stress for days, weeks or months at a time, but this type of lifestyle can be detrimental to cholesterol levels. There are two types of cholesterol: HDL, which is the good type of cholesterol, and LDL, which is the bad type. When a person is under constant stress, LDL cholesterol can rise, causing cholesterol to build up on the inner walls of the arteries overtime, and may result in a heart attack or stroke.
Coping With Stress in Unhealthy Ways
Many times, people try to cope with the effects of stress by turning to things such as food, alcohol or smoking. However, these are not healthy ways to manage stress. When a person is stressed and turns to food, it may cause weight gain, which can lead to an increase in blood pressure and cholesterol. If a person chooses to manage their stress by consuming alcohol, it can raise blood pressure levels and damage the artery walls. When it comes to smoking, this unhealthy habit will not only impact your heart, but it will also affect many other aspects of your health, such as breathing issues and possibly cancer.
Lower Your Stress, Better Your Heart Health
Stress may be inevitable—work, finances, life and love can all increase stress—but thankfully, controlling your stress is not impossible. In order to reduce your stress levels, it is important to first pinpoint the factor, or factors, that are causing you to stress out. Once you have determined this, it is crucial for you to implement habits that will help you de-stress. These habits include, but are not limited to:
- Practicing mediation
- Being active (walking, running, lifting weights, doing yoga, taking fitness classes, etc.)
- Eating healthier
- Drinking plenty of water
- Implementing breathing techniques
- Monitoring your heart health annually
- Talking your stresses out with a professional
Whether you know you have a pre-existing heart condition or feel you need to begin monitoring your heart health, the doctors at AMS cardiology can help. We are welcoming new patients at our convenient locations in Abington, Blue Bell, North Wales and Warminster. Contact us today!