Emotional stress and heart health
Having too much emotional stress for too long can cause a negative reaction within your body. If you’re feeling anxious, tense, frustrated, or angry, your body’s natural response is to release stress hormones. These hormones, called adrenaline and cortisol, prepare the body to deal with the stress and can cause the heart to beat more rapidly. They can also cause blood pressure to rise as blood vessels narrow to push blood to the center of the body. Blood pressure and heart rate usually return to normal after stress subsides.
But what happens if you’re constantly stressed? Continuous stress doesn’t give your body the chance to recover, causing the body to remain in what’s often referred to as “high gear.” Remaining in high gear may contribute to numerous health conditions, including heart disease.
Everyone reacts to stress in different ways and how you respond may be more important than the stress itself. Chronic stress can cause some people to engage in unhealthy coping behaviors, like drinking too much alcohol, smoking, or overeating. These habits can further increase heart disease risk and may have a negative effect on one’s overall general health.
To help you work toward protecting your heart health, here are some suggestions you may find useful for relieving stress:
- Call that friend who makes you laugh every time you speak with them. Laughter is sometimes the best medicine!
- Walk away from a stressful situation and take a moment to decompress before returning.
- Reach for your sneakers to burn it off. Exercise can do wonders for heart health and the rest of your body.
- Make a point to relax every day. Regardless of whether you’re feeling stressed at the moment, get in the habit of learning how to relax. This way you’ll be ready to deal with a stressful situation at any given time.
- Turn up the tunes. Listen to your favorite song or the one that makes you feel good or relaxed. Listening while exercising can serve as double duty!
- Munch on crunchy, heart-healthy veggies.
You may also want to:
- Avoid overscheduling.
- Say “no” to things in your life that stress you out — and be OK with your decision.
- Accept that there are some things you can’t control.
- Practice meditation or deep breathing to help you prepare for stressful moments. Whatever your situation, whether it’s a difficult relationship, endless to-do list, or a job that’s stressing you out, learn to cope in heart-healthy ways. You only have one heart — take care of it so you can enjoy the things in life that bring you happiness!
To learn more, visit heart.org or stress.org.
Feeling Well: Heart Health