The link between stress and heart disease

The link between stress and heart disease

We’ve all heard that stress isn’t good for the body, that emotional triggers can have physical consequences and now science has proved that it really is detrimental to heart health.

A US study by Dr Robert A Kloner, ‘Lessons learned about stress and the heart after major earthquakes’ published in the American Heart Journal, found “there is evidence that certain stressors can trigger cardiovascular events.”

Natural disasters, this studied earthquakes but it could also be applicable to local disasters including drought, flooding and bushfires, “have been associated with a number of cardiac events including sudden cardiac death, fatal myocardial infarction, myocardial infarction, stress cardiomyopathy, heart failure, stroke, arrhythmias, hypertension and pulmonary embolism.”

While you can’t prevent natural disasters, you can work to reduce the amount of stress in your daily life. The report also stated that “after an episode of anger there is a several fold increased risk of myocardial infarction that lasts a few hours.”

Stress and your body

Chronic stress can negatively impact your heart health by contributing to high blood pressure and increasing levels of adrenaline, the fight-or-flight hormone that causes your heart rate to speed up and blood pressure to spike.

A constant state of stress isn’t doing you any favours

How people manage stress can also inadvertently cause further heart issues. If someone deals with stress by smoking, drinking excessively or overeating to help themselves “calm down” – all things we know are heart stressors – they may be doing more harm than good.

Healthy ways to help with stress:

  • Avoid stimulants: Go easy on alcohol, caffeine and nicotine which can all contribute to stress levels.
  • Exercise: Get out of your head and into your body when working out. By focusing on a physical activity, you have less mental space to think about what’s troubling you.
  • Relaxation strategies: Breathing exercises, yoga and meditation are all good techniques to help you release emotional and physical tension.
  • Implement a bedtime routine: Help your brain switch off before bed with sleep strategies which include avoiding screen time an hour before bed, running a warm bath to help you relax and reading a book in bed.
  • Talk it out: There’s a reason they say ‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’ Talking to someone about your worries helps you work through them. Even if you don’t come up with a solution, unburdening your troubles will make you feel calmer.