How Stress Affects Your Heart And What to Do About It

Your mental state can take a heavy toll on your heart, but a third of Americans remain oblivious to this fact. Most of us still focus on the physical body when we look for ways to prevent a heart attack. Today, after 2 years of the pandemic, this mistake is particularly dangerous.

Insidious Effects

Long-term anxiety is chipping away at the health of billions of people, which explains the rising sales of Delta-8 for sleep and other de-stressors. Even if your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are perfect, your heart can be seriously affected by stress. What’s more, the fallout is immeasurable.

The first symptoms could be subtle — mild palpitations or chest discomfort. In the presence of other risk factors, stress can become the trigger for the domino effect. For people with heart problems, it could prove deadly.

According to a study published in JAMA in 2021, stress-induced ischemia in patients with stable coronary heart disease is extremely dangerous. It is highly likely to increase the risk of heart attack or death.

Damage Done by Extreme Stress

The broken heart syndrome following an extremely tragic experience causes the heart to change shape. This results in symptoms similar to a heart attack. This proves how strong the brain-heart connection is.

Chronic stress triggers and exacerbates inflammation. It can increase blood pressure and therefore the risk for heart attack and stroke. Mental stress also raises the levels of triglycerides and LDL “bad” cholesterol.

Finally, stress may trigger coping strategies harmful for cardiac health: drinking, smoking, eating more junk food, etc. Here’s what to do instead.

4 Ways to Protect Your Heart

  • Physical exercise: Get at least half an hour of exercise per day to maintain your physical and mental well-being. Exercise is especially effective when done in nature. Go for a walk outdoors and enjoy its healing power.
  • Self-focus: Allocate some “me time” at least a few times per week to reset. If you are a busy parent running from one errand to another, this is still feasible. Just get to your next appointment 15 minutes early, park your car, turn off your phone notifications and recalibrate. Meditate, go for a walk, look at the stars, or do any other de-stressing activities you have time for.
  • Watch for warning signs: Has your heart rate sped up lately? This is a bad sign, just like increased palpitations, shortness of breath, and sweating. We experience all these things and butterflies in the stomach under stress — it is our fight-or-flight mode. The latter should go away as things settle down. If it continues during trivial activities like walking up the stairs, inform your doctor.
  • Forgive yourself: Nobody is 100% stress-free. Deal with your stress in a way that works for you. Stop all negative self-talk about what you could have done or said. Let go of your mistakes and setbacks.
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