Cardiovascular Disease in Women – Stress

What is stress?

Stressful situations like a traffic-jam or an argument are called daily stressors. Daily stressors will trigger the stress response in your body, and that makes your heart work harder.

The body’s natural stress response is important in certain situations. For example, if you were in the way of an oncoming car, you would sense that you were in danger. Certain hormones in you body would be released in reaction to this potential danger. Your immediate response would be to move out of the way of the car, faster than you normally move.

However, your body has a hard time telling the difference between a life-threatening event like an oncoming car and daily stressors like an argument or financial worries. Stress triggered by an argument has the same effect on the body as stress triggered by a life-threatening event.

Daily stressors will trigger your body’s stress response and build up tension in your body throughout the day. When the stress response is turned on too often in your body, health problems can occur. Stress and anxiety make the heart work much harder, which can make symptoms of cardiovascular disease worse. When your body turns on the stress response:

  • Your heart rate increases.
  • Your coronary arteries narrow which can cause decreased blood flow from the heart.
  • Your blood pressure goes up.
  • Your blood becomes stickier, increasing the chance of developing an artery-clogging blood clot.
  • Your blood cholesterol levels go up temporarily.

Too much stress can lead to heart disease, heart attack or stroke and other heath problems. Stress weakens the immune system, increasing risk for colds and infections. It can also cause flare-ups of asthma, arthritis, and stomach and intestinal problems.

Stress also affects how you cope with everything going on in your life. Being bombarded with stressors all the time with no relief can lead to anxiety, depression, and anger. What triggers the stress response and what is considered a stressful situation varies from person-to-person.

Stress topics

Signs and Symptoms of Stress

Some signs and symptoms are mild and can be relieved by making some changes in your behavior. However, you should consult a doctor for symptoms that are severe or stress that you cannot manage on your own. Some classic emotional signs of stress include: anxiety, agitation, depression irritability or moodiness, lack of interest in one’s life, restlessness, trouble sleeping, or difficulty concentrating. Some physical symptoms include: back or chest pain, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, grinding your teeth, muscle tension, headaches, heartburn, stomach pain, pounding heart, indigestion or gas pain, shaking hands or shortness of breath.

What can I do to relieve my stress?

Stress management is an important part of a healthy lifestyle but cannot substitute for medical treatment. Here are a few examples of how you can relieve your stress:

  • Identify the causes of your stress
  • Allow time for yourself.
  • Look at your priorities
  • Ask for help with regular chores.
  • Find support.
  • Care for your spiritual self.
  • Use affirmations.

It is also important to exercise, eat a healthy diet and try to get enough sleep.

Relaxation techniques are another way to relieve stress. It is important because it lowers blood pressure, releases muscle tension and eases emotional strains. Try deep breathing, simple stretches, or meditation at home to relax or if you have enough time on a meal-break at work.

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