You already know that chronic stress is bad for you. You probably also know that stress increases your chance of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks.
But how exactly can stress cause so much damage to your heart?
Here are 2 things that can occur:
1. Increased Blood Cholesterol
There are many reasons for increased cholesterol. Some reasons are not in your control, such as genetics, gender, and age.
However, stress is another reason for high cholesterol, and is considered to be under your control. This is because, although you cannot eliminate stress, you can change how you respond to it.
Exactly how stress contributes to increases in cholesterol is not clear. Part of it appears to occur because of unhealthy lifestyle choices, that you may make when stressed. Examples of these unhealthy choices include eating more junk food, more fast food, getting less exercise, and smoking. These unhealthy activities are known to increase blood cholesterol.
It is also believed that cholesterol increases due to increased production of LDL (less-healthy) cholesterol, in response to your body attempting to meet its energy needs during times of stress.
Higher levels of cholesterol circulating in your blood can eventually settle in your arteries, resulting in their narrowing. This can lead to chest pain, and even heart attack.
2. Increased Blood Pressure
Short-term stress causes your hormones to increase your blood pressure. This is part of the primitive “fight or flight” response.
Even though your blood pressure returns back to its normal range after a short-term stressful event, the cumulative effects of the elevated blood pressure can do damage to the arteries of your heart and the other blood vessels in the body.
It is still unclear as to whether your blood pressure can remain elevated long term due to stress.
One thing that is sure is that when you are under stress, you may adopt unhealthy activities such as less exercise and others previously mentioned. These unhealthy activities are known to contribute to high blood pressure, which can remain elevated long term.
If your blood pressure remains high, your doctor will advise you to take medication to control it. Untreated high blood pressure can result in increased buildup of fatty deposits in your blood vessels, weakened blood vessels that can burst, as well as an enlarged heart. All of these things can result in grave disability and death.
Now you know two reasons why stress is bad for your heart. So the next time that you find yourself getting stressed over something, remember that you are doing your body no good. Take care of your heart, and it will reward you with many more healthy years.
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