If you’re struggling under unrelenting psychological pressure, you have a new reason to try to find healthy ways to manage it. The health of your heart (not to mention your mind and the rest of your body too). While the question of psychological stress causing heart disease is still very much open to debate, everyone agrees that chronic stress is hard on your heart, the rest of your body and your mind.
A recent study out of Michigan Technological University sheds some light on the picture of stress and its effect on the heart. The work found that volunteers who ingested fish oil supplements daily for 8 weeks saw less of a reaction to stress in both their heart rate and sympathetic nervous system reactions than those who took olive oil supplements instead. Long story short, order the fish or think about fish oil supplements if you’re dealing with lots of mental stress. And who isn’t?
When you’re under psychological stress, the body goes through a series of physiological actions that all feed into your nervous and circulatory system. So your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure rises and the sympathetic nervous system, the controller of the “fight or flight” instinct, takes off. The body doesn’t see a difference between real stress (a sketchy character following you), and imagined stress (a presentation at work).
Here’s how stress hurts your heart in the short term:
- Increased heart rate.
- Increased rate of blood flow, upping blood pressure.
- Release of fatty acids into the blood for energy increases.
- Continued release of cortisol which impacts where fat is deposited in the body, mostly in the abdomen.
Study author Jason R. Carter, Ph.D. warns that over time this puts you at risk of high blood pressure, hardened arteries and even a shocking sudden cardiac death. Science doesn’t know for sure how much stress it takes to cause problems for the heart, but it is suspected of playing some role. You may have noticed in your own life that angry personalities, those who don’t handle stress well, appear more susceptible to negative health issues.
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Cut Off The Effects Of Psychological Stress Continued…
Over time, chronic, unending stress can do measurable damage to the heart…
- Higher heart rates over time could push the heart to take on an abnormal heart rhythm.
- Higher blood pressure over a long period brings a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Higher cholesterol and triglycerides up the potential for your arteries to thicken with plaque, leading to coronary artery disease or even heart attack.
- Deposits of fat in the belly, the so-called “apple” shape, are one of the markers of metabolic syndrome and a risk factor for heart disease.
Carter suggests a daily dose of fish oil for those who are high strung, the so-called Type A personality, might be beneficial. You should discuss this with your own doctor before doing anything, and look for healthy ways to help manage that unending psychological stress. Listen to soothing music. Find humor in daily situations. Watch funny movies. Unload your worries to a loved one, close friend, clergy or even in writing, to keep private. The key is to do something to give your body a respite on some type of regular basis, even if just for a little while.
To your good health,