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Can Stress Cause Heart Problems? Everything You Need to Know!

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Can stress cause heart problems?  Short answer…YES!

Chronic stress can be fatal- no question there.

But what is less understood is how it can contribute to your demise, or what role it plays in dysfunction of the heart.

For years, people have attributed heart disease (and subsequent failure) to consumption of too many fats.  But the truth is…there is much more at play.

On the one hand, fat is merely one part of the complete picture.  On the other hand, stress actually plays a much more prominent role in development of heart failure.

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How can stress cause heart problems?can stress cause heart problems

Because, unlike diet, which takes years for its toll on the heart to be revealed, stress acts mush faster to trigger heart problems.

You may be surprised with the speed that stress can cause an otherwise normal heart and circulatory system to deteriorate.

How Can Stress Cause Heart Problems? Stress Makes Blood Vessels Inflexible

Blood vessels have the innate ability to expand and contract as the need dictates.  But there is a potential risk.  Blood vessels can be artificially controlled via the influence of hormones or other compounds.

Two hormones can pose serious threats to our health.  The stress hormones; cortisol and Adrenaline.

They can cause the blood vessels to be chronically constricted so that they become unable to adjust to needs of the heart and blood.

Depending on the diameter of the blood vessels inside area, the heart either has to work harder or not.  Consequently, a smaller lumen (this is the name for the inside diameter) area makes the heart work much harder.

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How Can Stress Cause Heart Problems? Stress Worsens Blood Pressure!

You may have heard that stress can bring about high blood pressure, and turns out that this is actually true.

While acute bouts of stress won’t leave a negative imprint on your blood pressure, consistently elevated levels of stress hormones will.

For one, cortisol promotes sodium retention, which is bad by itself but made worse because it subsequently promotes water retention by the body.

The more water the body retains, the greater blood volume is in turn. Higher blood volume, coupled with small blood vessels is a horrible recipe for hypertension.

How Can Stress Cause Heart Problems? It Hastens Formation Of Atherosclerotic Plaques In Blood Vessels

High cholesterol is implicated in causing buildup of plaques in arteries, but this is only partly true.

Stress hormones cortisol, an enzyme named angiotensin and other factors cause damage inside blood vessels.  Eventually, this then leads to recruitment of immune cells to the area of damage.

In turn, the body forms an internal clot which is compounded upon with deposits of this atherosclerotic plaque.

These “blobs” are balls of inflammation which keep sending immune signals for reinforcements.  Unfortunately,  the cycle continues until the heart is unable to get sufficient blood past the blockages and failure ensues.

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Heart Failure Is Precipitated By A Heart Attack

Heart failure almost always follows a heart attack, during which there is damage or death to a part of the heart involved in the pumping of blood.

The result is a heart that can no longer meet its mandate, and the heart is said to be in “heart failure.”

At this point, various avenues need to be examined to help the heart contract in an effort to compensate for the area that is now non-functional.

If stress is not rapidly addressed, a subsequent attack is likely to occur.  With what result? The possibility of further damage to the already fragile heart.

How Can Stress Cause Heart Problems? It Can Cause Heart Rhythm Abnormalities

Palpitations are among the most reported heart rhythm disorders.  It is most often identified by the individual being made aware of the heart contractions.

Normally, you are not aware of the beats your heart make, but when you do they may seem much more rapid than it should be.

Adrenaline directly affects the heart rate, and is a somewhat compensatory mechanism when cortisol is flooding the blood.

However, when the heart can’t keep up with these demands, or oxygen cannot be delivered fast enough, the worst happens.  Unfortunately, a heart attack occurs and heart failure is set in motion.

So how can you prevent stress from causing heart problems?

Take steps NOW to get stress under control!

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3 Comments

  1. Yes, and moving away from cities has lowered my stress level amazingly! I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t experienced it myself…

    1. Darlene Berkel says:

      SO TRUE Laura Lee…moving away from the busy, hectic city life back to the simple life on a Caribbean island has dramatically reduced my stress levels! Not everyone may be able to move away from cities, but even while living in the city there is a lot that can be done to scale back and simplify life. The rewards will be lower stress levels, more joy and peace and a HAPPIER, HEALTHIER HEART! 🙂

  2. Really interesting information Darlene. Thanks for sharing. Great food for thought.

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