How Stress And Diet Cause Heart Attacks
ByRobin Lloyd13 June 2008
Word of Tim Russerts 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. Russerts 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 dont 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.
What The Experts Do Taking Steps Toward Stress Relief
I certainly get stressed, but exercise is part of my de-stressing, says Johns Hopkins cardiologist Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H. Im a big activity tracker. I make sure to get 10,000 steps every day. When the kids go to bed, I go to my elliptical trainer, which faces a flat-screen TV. I decompress, watch whatever I might have watched anyway, and get to my 10,000 steps.
What Stress Does To Your Body
When faced with a stressful situation such as rush-hour traffic or babysitting an ornery grandchild our bodies release hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, which help us react to the situation.
These hormones increase heart rate and blood pressure, supplying the body with a burst of energy and strength. This creates a “fight or flight” reaction that, when you’re in actual danger, helps you defend yourself or flee.
When the “danger” or stressful scenario passes, the body’s relaxation response kicks in and hormone levels return to normal.
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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
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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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.
Did You Know: You Can Experience Anxiety Symptoms When You’re Not Feeling Anxious
There is an issue known as limited symptom panic attacks. These are when your body has less than 4 of the physical symptoms of an anxiety attack, and they may occur even when you’re not suffering from anxiety.
Those that get panic attacks are prone to these limited symptom attacks and experience issues like chest pain and shortness of breath without any triggers – often leading to future worries about their own health. It’s hard to know if you have limited symptom attacks without knowing your anxiety.
Who Is At Risk For Getting Broken Heart Syndrome
You may be at higher risk for getting broken heart syndrome if you are a middle-aged woman. The risk of developing the condition increases five times after the age of 55. While the syndrome has been reported in younger women, in men and even in children, the vast majority of patients are post-menopausal women. The exact reason for this is unknown, but it is believed that because the female hormone estrogen helps to protect the heart from the harmful effects of adrenaline, women become particularly vulnerable to the effects of sudden stress as they grow older and their estrogen levels decline. Other risk factors for developing this condition include a history of anxiety, depression or neurologic illness.
Stay on Top of Your Heart Health
If you have a new or existing heart problem, its vital to see a doctor. Our heart health checklist can help you determine when to seek care.
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American Heart Association News Stories
American Heart Association News covers heart disease, stroke and related health issues. Not all views expressed in American Heart Association News stories reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Statements, conclusions, accuracy and reliability of studies published in American Heart Association scientific journals or presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the American Heart Associationâs official guidance, policies or positions.
Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, for individuals, media outlets, and non-commercial education and awareness efforts to link to, quote, excerpt or reprint from these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered and proper attribution is made to American Heart Association News.
Chest Pain: Anxiety Or Heart Attack
Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between a heart attack and a panic attack, as the symptoms can be similar.
For example, a panic attack can cause a sharp pain in the chest, shortness of breath, racing heart, sweating and shaking. Heart attack symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea and vomiting.
However, there are some important differences:
- During a heart attack, the pain in your chest often feels like pressure or a squeezing sensation. It may start in the centre of the chest but then radiate out to your jaw, arm, or shoulder blades. The chest pain caused by a panic attack is sharp or stabbing and remains in the middle of the chest.
Panic attacks are normally over within a matter of minutes, although they can go on for longer. By contrast, the symptoms of a heart attack tend to last longer and may worsen over time.
Sometimes a heart attack can be triggered by some kind of physical exertion. Whereas a panic attack rarely begins this way.
Learn more about chest pain by watching our animated video:
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Heart Attack Or Anxiety
It feels like your heart is getting squeezed. You can’t get a deep breath. You get chest pains. You feel weak. You genuinely feel as though you’re about to die.
Then it all goes away.
What happened? Many people worry they suffered from a heart attack. But what you may have suffered from is a panic attack. Don’t let the name fool you – panic attacks cause very real physical symptoms that mimic those of a heart attack, yet in general, nothing is wrong with your heart.
Why are these anxiety attacks so powerful and how can they be stopped? We’ll explore these anxiety attacks below.
Can Stress Cause Heart Problems
Stress is a proven cause of heart problems mainly heart disease. While the exact reasons how are still uncertain, people who are regularly exposed to stressful situations or who do not manage their stress have a greater chance of developing heart disease.
Excessive stress can lead to many negative effects on the body, both physical and mental. Some people cope with high stress situations by drinking too much or smoking, both of which wear down the body. Others may develop hypertension, ulcers, and many other conditions, all of which are additional stressors on the body.
Everyday life is full of challenges, both at home and at work. Taking time out of your day to de-stress can help you relax in the short term, and reduce your risk of developing heart disease later in life!
Abstract: Anxiety is a natural physical response that helps us cope with situations on a very basic level, while heart attacks occur in people with heart-related diseases. Although the intensity of chest pain during a heart attack is much worse, the symptoms are similar.
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The Role Of Genes In Anxiety Disorder
Just like a major heart attack, a burn is a horrible thing, says McCann. About 33% of patients who have really severe burns develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Which makes us wonder about the 66% who do not get PTSD. We think genes are a huge part of it. Were currently researching whether this same genetic vulnerability holds true for cardiac disease.
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.
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Can Stress Cause A Heart Attack
Stress can trigger insomnia, exacerbate digestive problems and cause muscle tension that leads to body aches.
But can stress cause a heart attack? Or is it just a dire, unsubstantiated warning offered by concerned family and friends along the lines of “You’ll catch pneumonia if you go outside with your hair wet”?
Can A Stressful Job Give You A Heart Attack
Some stress at work is normal but too much can be dangerous for your heart.
Long hours, punishing deadlines and the need to perform at a consistently high standard means lawyers are often burdened by high stress levels. The negative impacts of work-related stress like sleeping difficulties, irritability, aggression and poor performance are well documented, as are the effects on mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. But can this stress be so great that it causes a heart attack?
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Healthy And Unhealthy Types Of Stress
Stress isnt always bad in some cases it can be good if it gives you that extra surge of energy to finish a task on time or is used as motivation. But it becomes a problem if youre experiencing severe or frequent stress. Heres more about the types of stress and when it can be a problem for heart health.
What Can You Do If You Have Anxiety
The good news is that both anxiety and heart problems are treatable, and exercise is one of the things you can do for both anxiety and heart problems. Exercise boosts coronary circulation, reduces cortisol, improves your mood, and lowers blood pressure. Other lifestyle modifications that help treat both anxiety and heart conditions, include:
- Practicing good sleep hygiene
- Managing stress
- Eating well-rounded meals
If you dont have heart problems, you can reduce your risk of developing them by managing your anxiety, attending therapy, and taking medication, if directed.
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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.
How Does Stress Lead To Heart Attacks
Psychosocial stress can be short-term or long-term, and both types have been associated with heart disease. Exactly how stress leads to a heart attack is still being studied.
Emotional stress can lead to an increase in blood pressure, or hypertension, which subsequently leads to heart disease and plaque buildup in the coronary arteries. Emotional stress also can lead to increased level of stress hormones, or cortisol. These hormones affect platelets and autonomic tone, which is how your body controls involuntary functions such as heart rate and blood pressure. All these factors play a role in heart disease.
Stress also can lead to unhealthy mechanisms to cope with stress, such as stress eating or substance abuse, and not exercising, which in turn can lead to heart disease.
Also, short-term severe stressful situations often can cause severe but usually temporary heart failure. This condition is called broken heart syndrome, also known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome or stress cardiomyopathy.
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Practice Sna Stillness Of Non
Sit in a quiet place. Be relaxed. Breath regularly. Observe your breath. Observe your thoughts and practice not getting carries away by the same. Do not judge your thoughts. Observe your breath rising up and falling down. Observe your thoughts coming up and going away. Thats all is required 10 minutes twice a day and as and when you feel like it. Learn to be alone in stillness when you are not getting carried away by your thoughts.
Connecting Stress With Heart Disease
When under stress, the body releases cortisol and other stress hormones. Cortisol signals the nervous system to increase heart rate and blood pressure for the bodys fight or flight response. In the short-term cortisol is good, powering you when you need it most. But in the long-term, ongoing stress can contribute to high blood pressure and can cause stress in other parts of the body as well.
In addition to increasing the risk of heart attack and blood clots, high blood pressure may also increase the risk for heart failure. Narrowed and hardened vessels require the heart to work harder to pump blood to the body. To meet the demand, the heart gets larger and pumps faster. With the heart working harder than it should and beyond its capabilities, in time, a person could experience fatigue, shortness of breath and an inability to accomplish daily activities all symptoms of heart failure.
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What Happens In Heart Attack Due To Sudden Stress
When To See A Doctor
It is important not to just press on if you are struggling with symptoms of stress or anxiety. Left unaddressed, they can have long-term health impacts.
Talk to a GP if you are experiencing ongoing or worsening symptoms. If you experience a mental health crisis some organisations can provide support, including the Samaritans and mental health charity, Mind.
If you are concerned about your heart health you may wish to have a specialist cardiac screening. This will check your overall heart health and spot early warning signs of heart disease.
Screening involves a comprehensive range of tests performed in the clinic by expert cardiologists. It takes around 2-4 hours and you will receive a report of your results and any recommended treatment or follow up tests.
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What Causes Heart Attacks
Heart disease starts with the buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries of your heart. Plaque consists of cholesterol, other fats, calcium, cellular waste, and various products of inflammation.
Since cholesterol plays a major role, let’s look at it first.
As you probably know, cholesterol comes in two varieties referred to as LDL and HDL . But it’s the LDL cholesterol that we’re mainly concerned with in relation to plaque .
Under the microscope LDL, cholesterol particles are seen to be different sized some are large while others are small, and it’s the small ones that do the most damage. The reason for this is that they are small enough to easily slip through the cells that line the walls of the arteries, and they become oxidized when they enter this region.
As a result, the immune system sees them as foreign invaders and sends what are called macrophages to deal with them . The macrophages gobble them up and in the process, become bloated and are referred to foam cells.
These foam cells form a relatively large mass within the artery wall that usually protrudes into its interior. Indeed, in time, a fibrous “cap” develops over the mass of foam cells. This is the plaque mentioned earlier .
In practice, it usually takes years to build up plaque in this way, and surprisingly it rarely develops to the state where it completely blocks off the artery. Indeed, plaque buildup by itself only causes a heart attack in about 15% of cases.