Peninsula Integrative Cardiology

The Link Between Stress and Heart Health

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The link between stress and heart health is well-known, but you may not know how it works. Learn more about the reasons why stress is bad for your heart.

The link between stress and your heart health is pretty well-known, even outside of the field of cardiology. But you may not know why this is the case or exactly how bad stress is for your heart health.

It turns out that emotional stress – especially chronic emotional stress – takes a major toll on your health. Your health is impacted by stressors of all sorts, from the daily commute to relationship difficulties. But your stress doesn’t have to cause heart problems if you’re paying attention. 

Dr. Daniel Rieders of Peninsula Integrative Medicine in Palo Alto, California, explains more about the link between stress and heart health and what you can do to improve your health.

The link to other health habits

When you’re under stress, you may feel more vulnerable to other bad health habits. These habits include the following:

  • Smoking
  • Making poor dietary choices
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not taking medications as prescribed
  • Not exercising

These habits contribute to overall poor health, including heart disease. You can minimize your risk by avoiding these habits.

How stress impacts heart health

Even if you avoid the negative lifestyle habits mentioned above, your heart health is still at risk from stress.

When you’re stressed out, your body produces more adrenaline. This is known as the “fight or flight” hormone. If you’re chronically stressed, this can feel like the fight or flight response continually stays in the on mode.

Additionally, researchers have found that when you’re under stress, your amygdala mounts a response that leads to inflammation and increases your risk of heart disease. An overactive amygdala reacts more strongly to stressful events, which causes a cascade of effects on your body.

How to defeat chronic stress

If you have chronic stress, you’re not doomed. You can do quite a bit to take control of your stress and live a healthier lifestyle.

Integrative medicine is an excellent approach to managing stress because Dr. Rieders considers all the factors that contribute to your stress. 

Part of that is managing your nutrition. When you eat a healthy diet, it has a positive impact on your health. This also includes minimizing or completely eliminating caffeine, as caffeine increases your anxiety and can make you feel more stressed out.

Exercise is another component for your health. Regular exercise is proven to reduce your stress, helping you to manage anxiety and symptoms of depression, and it also strengthens your heart health.

Advanced stress management techniques

There are additional techniques you can do to help manage your stress. Often, there’s a spiritual component to stress as well, which isn’t about religion but finding a meaningful outlet for your spiritual needs.

Starting or committing to a meditation practice is often helpful in managing stress. Overall, you want to find a way to include the following in your daily life:

  • Gratitude
  • Optimism
  • Mindfulness
  • Happiness
  • Purpose and life satisfaction

If you don’t feel these things, you can train your brain to focus more on them. Eventually, it becomes a case where you believe it, and the practice becomes second nature.

If you feel chronic stress and are worried about your heart health, the best thing you can do is to schedule a consultation with Dr. Daniel Rieders at Peninsula Integrative Medicine today. Call the office or use the online booking feature to request an appointment.