Can anxiety and stress cause a heart attack? Research shows chronic stress can potentially lead to heart attacks and stroke. Feeling constantly stressed could increase your risk of heart and circulatory disease. The researchers, from Harvard University, suggested stress could be as important a risk factor like smoking.
The physical symptoms of anxiety can damage our body and lead to coronary disease. There is a connection between anxiety and heart disorders, such as weakening of the heart muscle, and heart failure.
The most common cause of a stroke is the blockage of an artery in the brain as part of the brain is deprived of blood and oxygen because of the clotted blood vessels.
What Happens in the Brain During a Stroke?
There are two main types of stroke.
1) Hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding in the brain. They happen due to a weak spot in the wall of the vessel, which can cause an aneurysm (bulging of the vessel wall). The vessels can also be weakened by chronic, high blood pressure and break from force. When the vessel breaks, the blood leaks into the surrounding tissue and the brain fails to get the oxygen and nutrients it needs.
2) Ischemic stroke results from blocked arteries, which often occur from cholesterol buildup.
Does stress cause strokes? Everyone has different tolerances to stress.“One person’s stress is not the same as another’s. Some folks have a lot of stress just from dealing with kids and finances. Others might carry the stress of running a small business or an entire corporation. Then, there are jobs where people are faced with real-world dangers, like firefighters and police officers where real-world dangers are no big deal and they are as happy as anyone else. Regardless of your job, if you feel you’re under stress, you probably are,” Dr. Sundermann says.
Dr. Sundermann confirms that there’s evidence that chronic stress does increase stroke risk. When we are under constant stress, our body has high levels of cortisol, coupled with the effects of other stress hormones, which causes retention of salt and our blood pressure increases. “Over time, that would cause stress on blood vessels. Stress also causes an increase in blood sugar, which means the vessels can’t dilate or contract to better control blood flow. Increased cortisol also disrupts sleep cycles, which can make us more stressed and release more cortisol […] Simply, when we are tired we are less likely to exercise and more likely to eat poorly,” Dr. Sundermann says.
During any form of stress, either we feel nervous, fear or grief, our brain triggers a release of chemicals to prepare for a threat. Two primary chemicals the brain release are cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol is a hormone that forces our body to retain water and sodium that help to keep blood pressure up. Cortisol also has several mechanisms to store sugar and make sure that we have sugar available for use and assure that our bodies have fuel to run. Cortisol increases dramatically as we run from a dangerous animal, or fight off an attacker, or deal with a tricky project.
Adrenaline is also known as epinephrine, which is a type of catecholamines. Adrenaline causes increased heart rate and increased blood pressure to pump blood to vital organs.
Ask yourself these questions to check if you are stressed out.
- Does your significant other or people around you tell you that you seem stressed?
- Are you at odds with friends, coworkers and family members more than normal?
- Do you find less joy in things that normally make you happy?
- Do you find it difficult to fall asleep? Do you suffer from insomnia?
- Do you have a hard time getting out of bed?
- Do you resort to alcohol, tobacco or binge eating/ emotional eating to alleviate your stress?
Other physical signs which show that you are under high stress: Pain or tension in your head, neck and stomach. Also, our muscles tend to tense up when we’re stressed, and over time this can cause headaches(migraines) and digestive problems.
Untreated heatstroke can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death.
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