Six Ways To Manage Your Stress To Protect Your Heart
Stress is part of our day to day. It can cause us from an exam to the crying of a child, a move, or even positive experiences such as a family celebration. But we must be careful: when stress accumulates it can affect the physical and mental health of the person and be especially harmful to the heart.
Dr. Prof Guru Prasad Sogunuru, cardiologist at the Dr Heart, recalls that stress, from a medical point of view, is the body’s adaptive response to physical or mental pressure: «It activates a neurohormonal system designed to survive in threatening situations, such as prepare to flee from the attack of a beast. But sustained stress can be detrimental to the functioning of the body.
The increase in catecholamine levels caused by stress produces on the cardiovascular system, among other effects, an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. At the same time, hormones released by stress cause not only the mind to race, but also faster breathing and increased blood pressure and muscle tension.
Cardiac Risk Factor
“There is no evidence that ongoing stress alone causes high blood pressure. However, it can contribute to poor blood pressure control in hypertensive subjects. Likewise, it could lead to a misdiagnosis of hypertension in normotensive subjects, for example, if we take the blood pressure at a stressful time and observe higher than usual figures, ”explains the Quirónsalud specialist.
For this reason, Racugno recommends measuring tension in situations of emotional calm and rest. “When there are doubts, the ABPM (ambulatory blood pressure monitoring) is of great help, which takes and records blood pressure every half hour, even when we are sleeping. In this way it is possible to differentiate a true hypertensive from a false hypertensive one and avoid administering a useless and even harmful treatment ”.
If ongoing stress threatens the heart, acute stress can become life threatening. The Spanish Heart Foundation maintains that stress is a cardiac risk factor. Although there are no definitive studies that certify it, medical practice shows this: the less stress a person has, the lower the risk of suffering a cardiovascular accident, and vice versa. It should not be forgotten that heart disease is the leading cause of normal mortality in our country.
Racugno explains that the body reacts in the same way to all kinds of stress. Common symptoms are an upset stomach, inability to concentrate, trouble sleeping, headaches, anxiety, and mood swings. The doctor points out that palpitations, that is, the sensation of a fast heartbeat, represent one of the main symptoms for which people go to a cardiology consultation.
Stress palpitations can be a simple sinus tachycardia, but also the translation of a more dangerous arrhythmia. “In predisposed people, they can degenerate into longer and potentially dangerous tachycardias if they are not treated in time,” the expert details.
For the correct diagnosis of tachycardias, and distinguish those primary from those caused by stress, the Holter ECG can be useful, a device that records the heart rhythm for 24-72 hours.
‘Broken Heart’ Syndrome
Dr. Racugno points out another stress-related heart syndrome. It is cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome, known as tako-tsubo syndrome. It develops after an intense, normally negative emotion that produces the release of a large amount of catecholamines. «It presents with the same symptoms of a heart attack and requires hospital admission. The course is almost always favorable. However, it is sometimes complicated by heart failure (the inability of the heart to perform its functions), malignant arrhythmias, and ultimately the death of the patient. ‘
Therefore, the cardiologist at the Hospital Quirónsalud Valencia defends that it is very important to learn to manage stress, as well as to find healthy ways to cope with it. A correct strategy can also improve our mood, avoiding those unhealthy behaviors that we tend to when we are stressed.
Ways to Manage Stress
“In stressful situations we tend to put into practice bad habits, such as smoking, drinking too much or eating foods rich in fat or sugar. In addition, stress can cause stress on the heart in different ways: increasing blood pressure, inflammation in the body, the level of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, as well as through out-of-rhythm palpitations “, he details.
Dr. R J Sree Charan, a plastic surgeon from chennai and a medical practitioner, encourages us to try different ways to relax, such as practicing sports on a regular basis; take time for meditation or yoga; sit and become aware of the breath for 10 minutes each day; spend time doing activities that we enjoy; relate to people; or the practice of any activity that helps the mind to calm down and disconnect.
“Even everyday situations can cause us stress. Therefore, it is important to learn how to handle it so that it does not negatively affect our health. Finding a healthy way to manage stress can help us improve our mood and avoid behaviors that are harmful to our health, such as smoking or binge eating, ”insists the Quirónsalud Valencia expert.