We often don’t consider the physical strain that the stresses of life put on our bodies, including our hearts, but stress, particularly chronic stress, takes a toll. According to Go Red for Women, the body reacts to stress by releasing adrenaline, which causes breathing and heart rate to speed up and blood pressure to increase.
Chronic stress can mean days or weeks of increased blood pressure and heart rate, which can damage the artery walls and lead to a weakened immune system.
Additionally, stress can lead to poor eating, lack of exercise, poor sleep habits, too much alcohol and other lifestyle choices that can lead to a greater risk of heart disease.
How do I Manage Stress?
No medication can make you good at handling stress. Rather, you need to recognize when you’re getting stressed, do what you can to plan ahead to avoid or reduce stress and find what stress management techniques work for you. According to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, people who are stressed feel worry, anger, irritation and depression and often are unable to focus or cope with their normal tasks. They tend to be more likely to snap at others, lose patience or make mistakes, all of which adds to their stress and forming a dangerous cycle. Many people also experience physical symptoms when under stress, including headaches, back pain, upset stomach, weight fluctuation and tense muscles.
When you experience stress, make sure you’re taking care of yourself physically: eat well, sleep, exercise. Find time to relax: do yoga or meditation or spend a few minutes stretching, make time to talk with a friend and give yourself permission to take time off work or step away from a stressful situation until you’ve calmed down. When you know your stressors, make a plan to avoid those triggers or plan to mitigate the amount of time you need to spend in those situations.
Some people experience long-term stressful events, such as a chronic illness in themselves or a loved one, the death of a loved one, ongoing financial and work problems, ongoing problems with a partner or child or stress related to trauma, which can be post-traumatic stress disorder. People in these categories should talk to their doctor and ask about seeing a licensed therapist or other interventions that are available.