Find Ways To Manage Stress
As simple as it sounds, managing stress can also lower your risk for heart disease. Dont underestimate chronic stress as a contributor to heart disease. Speak with your doctor if youre frequently overwhelmed, anxious, or are coping with stressful life events, such as moving, changing jobs, or going through a divorce.
Does Stress Cause Heart Attacks
Intense physical and emotional stress wont cause a heart attack, but these things can cause something that is very similar to a heart attack. Exposure to chronic physical and emotional stress can result in a condition known as stress cardiomyopathy.
Since anyone can be exposed to chronic stress, cardiomyopathy can happen to someone who has no previous history of heart disease or other health problems.
How Stress And Diet Cause Heart Attacks
ByRobin Lloyd13 June 2008
Word of Tim Russert’s death at 58 shocked many Americans today, and behind the grief came nagging questions about heart attacks, like the one that struck the newsman, and anxiety about how they kill. Russert’s death came in a week when the government reported U.S. life expectancy had risen to 78 years as heart disease and other leading causes of death decline.
About 1.2 million Americans suffer from heart attacks annually, and about 40 percent die from them. Russert sadly fit the profile, in some ways, for those who typically suffer from heart disease he was overweight and was under heavy stress at times due to his career. He also reportedly suffered from diabetes and people with that disease are at higher risk for heart disease. The typical heart attack victim is 65, but they can occur at any age in men and women. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and the most common heart disease here is a heart attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. One American dies every minute from a heart attack. Heart attacks occur when a clogged artery blocks blood flow to a part of the heart, starving it of oxygen and causing part of the muscle to die and beat irregularly. Arteries don’t clog overnight. Rather, plaque accumulates in them over years as a result, in part, of a diet high in cholesterol. High cholesterol foods include all animal products, including meat and dairy.
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Characteristics Of The Pain
Although chest pain is common to both a panic attack and a heart attack, the characteristics of the pain often differ.
During a panic attack, chest pain is usually sharp or stabbing and localized in the middle of the chest.
Chest pain from a heart attack may resemble pressure or a squeezing sensation.
Chest pain that occurs due to a heart attack may also start in the center of the chest, but can then radiate from the chest to the arm, jaw, or shoulder blades.
What Lifestyle Changes Does Heart Disease Require
If youve recently received a heart disease diagnosis, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to stay as healthy as possible. You can prepare for your appointment by creating a detailed list of your everyday habits. Possible topics include:
- medications you take
- losing weight if youre overweight
- eating healthy
Making these changes all at once might not be possible. Discuss with your healthcare provider which lifestyle changes will have the biggest impact. Even small steps toward these goals will help keep you at your healthiest.
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Understanding Heart Disease: Can Stress Cause A Heart Attack In A Healthy Person
People who are under a lot of stress are often told by family and friends that they should be careful or they might have a heart attack. While these people have good intentions and mean well, their advice isnt medically accurate. We will take a closer look at the connection between stress and heart disease.
What If Sleep Problems Are Contributing To My Stress
If you cannot sleep and it’s causing you stress or making it worse, try these tips:
- Establish a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
- Make sure your bed and surroundings are comfortable. Arrange the pillows so you can maintain a comfortable position.
- Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
- Use your bedroom for sleeping only don’t work or watch TV in your bedroom.
- Avoid napping too much during the day. At the same time, remember to balance activity with rest during recovery.
- If you feel nervous or anxious, talk to your spouse, partner, or a trusted friend. Get your troubles off your mind.
- Listen to relaxing music.
- Talk to your doctor before taking any sleeping aid.
- Take diuretics or “water pills” earlier, if possible, so you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
- If you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired. Don’t stay in bed worrying about when you’re going to fall asleep.
- Don’t exercise within two to three hours of bedtime.
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Whats The Connection Between Heart Disease And Hypertension
Hypertensive heart disease is a condition caused by chronic high blood pressure. Hypertension requires your heart to pump harder in order to circulate your blood through your body. This increased pressure can lead to several types of heart problems, including a thick, enlarged heart muscle and narrowed arteries.
The extra force your heart must use to pump blood can make your heart muscles harder and thicker. This can impact how well your heart pumps. Hypertensive heart disease can make arteries less elastic and more rigid. That can slow blood circulation and prevent your body from getting the oxygen-rich blood it needs.
Hypertensive heart disease is the top cause of death for people with high blood pressure, so its important you begin to treat high blood pressure as soon as you can. Treatment can stop complications and possibly prevent additional damage.
How Does Broken Heart Syndrome Differ From A Heart Attack
Most heart attacks occur due to blockages and blood clots forming in the coronary arteries, which supply the heart with blood. If these clots cut off the blood supply to the heart for a long enough time, heart muscle cells will die, leaving the heart with scar tissue and irreversible damage.
People experiencing broken heart syndrome frequently have normal coronary arteries and often do not have severe blockages or clots. The heart cells of people experiencing broken heart syndrome are stunned by the adrenaline and other stress hormones. Fortunately, this gets better very quickly in most cases, often within weeks or just a few days. Most patients dont have scar tissue or damage.
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How Does All This Affect A Heart Attack
Our problem now is: how does the action of adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine create a heart attack?
It might seem strange that it could do this, as it’s obviously an important process in the body.
We’ve also seen that inflammation, that is controlled by the immune system, plays a large role in heart disease.
Inflammation creates the foam cells within the plaque. It’s important to note, however, that a single stress response does little damage. It’s when the responses get out of control and come one after the other that the problems begin. When this occurs your immune system can become desensitized to cortisol and since cortisol controls the overall stress response, this can allow inflammation to get out of control.
Adrenaline also triggers the release of fibrinogen, a blood-clotting agent, and if too much adrenaline is created, too much fibrinogen will also be created, which is a serious risk factor for a heart attack.
It’s also important to note that in most cases several small attacks that are barely noticed frequently preceded the main one. A small crack occurs in the cap and a corresponding small blood clot occurs that does not block off the artery and may be barely noticed.
Clots of these types dissolve quickly and the cap heals over, but several of them set the stage for a larger crack and much larger blood clot as the cap weakens. And these smaller attacks are usually triggered by stress.
Your Bodys Response To Stress May Be:
- A headache
- Wreak havoc on your sleep
- Make you feel cranky, forgetful or out of control
A stressful situation sets off a chain of events. Your body releases adrenaline, a hormone that temporarily causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. These reactions prepare you to deal with the situation the fight or flight response.
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What Treatments Are Available For Heart Disease
Treatment for heart disease largely depends on the type of heart disease you have as well as how far it has advanced. For example, if you have a heart infection, your doctor is likely to prescribe an antibiotic.
If you have plaque buildup, they may take a two-pronged approach: prescribe a medication that can help lower your risk for additional plaque buildup and look to help you adopt healthy lifestyle changes.
Treatment for heart disease falls into three main categories:
The Damage Can Build Over Time
The excess strain and resulting damage from high blood pressure causes the coronary arteries serving the heart to slowly become narrowed from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances that together are called plaque. This slow process is known as atherosclerosis.
As arteries harden with plaque, blood clots become more likely to form. When an artery becomes blocked due to an accumulation of plaque or a blood clot, the flow of blood through the heart muscle is interrupted, starving the muscle of oxygen and nutrients. The damage or death of part of the heart muscle that occurs as a result is called a heart attack .
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Can Stress Cause Heart Disease
As humans, we all stress and worry. We stress about our family, our job, our financial situations. Moderate stress is normal, but sometimes we get so overwhelmed it can feel like we are on the verge of a heart attack.
Is this possible? Well, technically, yes. For more than 100 years, it has been thought that stress plays a role in heart disease and multiple studies today prove this. That fact alone makes it crucial to understand the link between stress and heart disease and know how to manage stress effectively.
How can stress cause heart disease?Chronic stress leads to a 40%-60% increase in cardiovascular disease, said Cardiologist Ray Georgeson, a physician at Piedmont HealthCare.
Stress can lead to a cascade of events in our hearts and body. A stressful situation can cause heightened central nervous system activity, which causes an increase in adrenaline and, ultimately, a high heart rate and blood pressure.
Additionally, stress can cause a plaque rupture, which occurs when cholesterol builds up on the artery wall. According to Georgeson, a small fibrous cap inside the artery keeps the cholesterol and plaque from entering the bloodstream. However, this cap weakens and ruptures after time, causing all the plaque to enter the artery, leading to a blood clot. This blood clot can then lead to a heart attack. Emotional stress, natural disasters, and even intense sporting events can cause stress and trigger plaque rupture.
How can I reduce my stress?
How To Reduce Stress
If left unaddressed, stress and anxiety can play a role in the development of coronary artery disease so it is important to reduce the impact of stress in your life.
It is helpful in the first instance to be able to recognise the signs of stress. These include:
Emotional symptoms such as feeling upset, afraid, angry, hopeless or disinterested in life.
Physical symptoms which might include heart palpitations, headaches, dizziness or sickness, tiredness and problems sleeping, poor appetite or comfort eating.
Compulsive behaviours such as nail biting, irritation or skin picking.
Ideally, try to develop healthy habits to help you deal effectively with stress and anxiety before it can become a problem.
Avoid resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking and drinking. Instead, introduce some regular gentle exercise such as a walk in the fresh air. This helps to release endorphins that trigger positive feelings in your body.
Techniques for helping yourself to handle stress include meditation, yoga and mindfulness. Talking to a trusted friend or counsellor can also help.
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Risk Factors You Cant Control
Other risk factors for heart disease include:
- family history
Although these risk factors arent controllable, you may be able to monitor their effects. According to the Mayo Clinic, a family history of CAD is especially concerning if it involved a:
- male relative under 55 years old, such as a father or brother
- female relative under 65 years old, such as a mother or sister
Non-Hispanic blacks, non-Hispanic whites, and people of Asian or Pacific Island heritage have a higher risk than Native Alaskans or Native Americans. Also, men are at greater risk for heart disease than women. In fact, the CDC estimates between 70 and 89 percent of all cardiac events in the United States occur in men.
Finally, your age can increase your risk for heart disease. From ages 20 to 59, men and women are at a similar risk for CAD. After age 60, however, the percentage of men affected rises to between 19.9 and 32.2 percent. Only 9.7 to 18.8 percent of women that age are affected.
Congenital Heart Defect Causes
This heart disease occurs while a baby is still developing in the womb. Some heart defects may be serious and diagnosed and treated early. Some may also go undiagnosed for many years.
Your hearts structure can also change as you age. This can create a heart defect that may lead to complications and problems.
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Aim For Healthy Blood Pressure And Cholesterol Numbers
Having healthy blood pressure and cholesterol ranges are some of the first steps you can take for a healthy heart. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury . A healthy blood pressure is considered less than 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, which is often expressed as 120 over 80 or 120/80 mm Hg. Systolic is the measurement of pressure while the heart is contracting. Diastolic is the measurement when the heart is resting. Higher numbers indicate that the heart is working too hard to pump blood.
Your ideal cholesterol level will depend on your risk factors and heart health history. If youre at a high risk of heart disease, have diabetes, or have already had a heart attack, your target levels will be below those of people with low or average risk.
What Causes Arterial Plaque To Rupture In The First Place
Soft plaque is unstable it can rupture, but what Davies has found is that the rupturing can be triggered by sudden stress.
His team removed diseased carotid arteries from patients, and multiple species of bacteria were isolated and cultured from the walls of these arteries.
These bacteria exist in the form of biofilms along the inner arterial walls, and these biofilms were present in every diseased carotid artery in this study.
Under normal circumstances, bacterial biofilms are resistant to antibiotics the films remain intact. The immune system cant shake these films, either.
However, something else can: norepinephrine. Norepinephrine delivers a message to the biofilms to break up and release enzymes. These enzymes dissolve the biofilms.
But because the biofilm is in such close proximity to the soft plaqueyou guessed itthe soft plaque breaks up, too!
We now have fragments of the soft plaque in the bloodstream, poised to create a blockage of oxygen transport to the brain or heart.
Davies tested his theory by adding norepinephrine to biofilms on the interior walls of silicone tubing.
The amount of this hormone that he added was at a level similar to what a person undergoing extreme stress would have.
At least one species of bacteria, thats commonly associated with the carotid arteries that were studied, underwent a biofilm disperson response when subjected to norepinephrine, says the paper.
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If I Have Had Broken Heart Syndrome What Is My Long Term Prognosis
Short and long term prognosis depends on the type of stressor that causes the syndrome in the first place. Patients who develop broken heart syndrome due to emotional triggers have a good five year prognosis. Patients with physical stressors have a worse prognosis due to neurologic events, like a stroke. Since the heart muscle is not permanently damaged, most patients with broken heart syndrome continue to live healthy lives.
Stress Can Cause A Cardiac Event That Resembles A Heart Attack
More than 90% of stress-induced cardiomyopathy cases occur in older women.
- Sudden stress can cause a cardiac event that feels like a heart attack, called takotsubo cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome.
- This stress-induced cardiomyopathy isnt associated with the artery blockages that lead to a heart attack, though it may cause your heart to pump inefficiently for up to a month.
- Chronic stress can also cause high blood pressure and lead to smoking or an unhealthy diet, which are major risk factors for a heart attack.
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While stress cant directly cause a heart attack, it can have a major impact on your heart health, and even trigger an event that feels just like a heart attack.
Heres what you need to know about stress-induced cardiomyopathy, as well as the effects of chronic stress on your heart and how to manage it.
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