How Chronic Stress Affects Heart Health

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If you click on the British Heart Foundation website, it currently reports that there is not a direct link between stress and heart disease. However, this is not the full story and there is more recent research coming to light.


It has been known for a long time that stress can exacerbate pre-existing heart disease, causing worsened angina symptoms and heart attacks. This is because, with the stress reaction, the blood pressure and heart rate increase, which causes increased demand on the heart. 

Recent research at Aston University has suggested that even young 'healthy' women are at risk of a form of stress-induced heart attack. 

Also, stress predisposes to lifestyles that increase risk of heart disease such as smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet. Stress increases risks of insomnia, which in turn is known to be linked to increased risks to heart health.


What has now been reported is that an area of the brain known to be involved in stress, the amygdala, may be sending information to the bone marrow to create more inflammatory white cells. These are then implicated in the inflammation of arteries that is part of the development of heart disease and heart attacks. More research is required to look at this further though.

However, there are other heart problems also linked with stress. One is a rare form of cardiomyopathy called takutsubo cardiomyopathy and is triggered by intense stress. There are also 'skipped' heartbeats, known as ventricular ectopics which are also known to be exacerbated by or brought on by stress. Other heart rate rhythm problems can sometimes also be triggered or worsened by stress, such as an SVT (Supraventricular Tachycardia).


So when choosing a path that is likely to give you chronic stress, it is worth considering if you are making a fully informed choice regarding the health of your heart. So is there anything you can do differently to relax more and keep your heart healthy and beating for a while longer?


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