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Manage Stress – Your Heart Will Thank You

From the Emotion Health - Grief - Depression Articles List

Manage Stress – Your Heart Will Thank You With all that’s going on in your life, it’s possible you feel stressed far too often. That can be especially true with menopause in the picture. As much as you might want to sweep stress into the corner and try to ignore it, you shouldn’t. Although you can’t see it, stress has a serious negative impact on your heart. To put it bluntly, chronic stress can kill you.

When you’re under stress, it triggers a fight or flight response that includes a flood of chemicals to prepare your body for immediate action. And that’s great if you are in danger and need to respond quickly to an emergency. It’s not so good if the perceived threat is a traffic jam, deadline, or other non-life threatening issue. All that activity puts a strain on your heart which can put you at risk for heart disease.

Heart-Stress Connection

Stress makes your body think there may be a life or death issue, so the fight or flight reactions can be strong. Stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline are released, your heart starts racing, your blood pressure shoots skyward, breathing becomes more rapid, and your glucose levels rise. Your blood vessels then become constricted and your heart muscles can spasm. Blood is also directed to your major muscles and limbs and away from what it thinks are unnecessary functions, such as digestion.

While the fight or flight reaction could help you react better in an emergency, when it occurs chronically it becomes harmful for your heart. Chronic stress can cause high blood pressure and an elevated heart rate, both of which make your heart work harder. Your body also demands more oxygen during stress, adding to your heart's workload. Exposure to stress hormones long term can be damaging for your heart, too. There may also be a link between stress and how your blood clots, putting you at greater risk for a heart attack.

You may also react poorly to the effects of stress by overeating, avoiding exercise, and smoking, all of which are harmful for your heart. Chronic stress also leaves your body exhausted as it tries to fight perceived dangers.

Learn to Manage Stress

Learning to manage stress is important for being able to stop unnecessary fight or flight responses. Simple tips include better time management, practicing relaxation techniques, taking time to relax each day, spending time with family and friends, eating well, exercising regularly, and being realistic about what is causing your stress and what you can do about it.

Recognize Fight or Flight

It’s also important to learn to recognize the signs that a fight or flight reaction is occurring so you can work to stop it. These include butterflies in your belly, rapid heartbeat, sweating, skin that’s cool and pale, dry mouth, tense muscles, dilated pupils, and quick, shallow breathing.

If you notice these symptoms and you aren’t in eminent physical danger, take steps to stop the fight or flight response. Concentrate on taking deep, slow breaths all the way from your belly. Find a quiet place where you can regroup. Slowly count to 10 – or 100 if you have to. Go for a walk, jump in the pool, grab your bike, or otherwise get moving.

This content was written by staff of HysterSisters.com by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support.

01-25-2018 - 12:45 PM


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