A Silent Killer

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Stress Can Seriously Disrupt Your Body’s Systems, Especially the Heart

 
Stress is a part of life for most people, whether professionally or personally, and is often confused with anxiety and even depression. However, unlike anxiety which can be treated by your doctor, stress requires a different kind of treatment. Dealing with stress requires maintenance.

While some people who suffer from stress may resort to medicines like tranquilizers, the immediate benefit of these drugs only serve to alleviate the stress experienced in the moment, and doesn’t help provide a foundation for future episodes of stress because it doesn’t resolve the sources of it.

When under stress, the body releases adrenaline, initiating your fight-or-flight instinct1. Chronic stress sporadically induces this state of quickened breathing and heart rate for extended periods of time, and while the connection between stress and heart-health risks is considered dubious by some, Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital believes that stress is equivalent to other well-known, heart-risk factors such as smoking cigarettes, cholesterol, and high-blood pressure2. Ongoing stress can also trigger or reinforce heart-risk behaviors like overeating and excessive drinking. One of the lesser known forms of cardiovascular damage resulting from severe, acute stress is takotsubo cardiomyopathy or “broken heart syndrome,” in which people who receive abrupt traumatic news suffer immediate heart attacks.3

While there are certainly conditions and external factors that are beyond anyone’s control such as age, metabolic syndrome, or congenital heart disease, stress is a factor that can be actively managed through diet, exercise, and positive thinking. There are other lesser-known strategies to consider as well, such as meditating to break out of self-perpetuating negativity, dedicating 15 minutes every day to an enjoyable activity, and purposefully driving in the slow lane to maintain one’s calm during the commute.4

This article was originally published by the Colorado Firefighter Heart and Circulatory Benefits Trust.

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