How Stress Causes Heart Attacks and Disease

You eat healthy and exercise, but you have clogged arteries or worse yet, had a heart attack. You wonder how that could possibly be. Well, here’s one of the key (and most overlooked) reasons why… STRESS. 

Are You Stressed Out?

Psychological stress can emerge when you’re unable to cope or respond to real-life demands (stressors), e.g.,  unemployment, caregiving for the the chronically ill, family dysfunction, poverty, and/or work, marital, or financial issues. According to the American Psychological Association (APA, 2011), there are two types of stress:

  1. Acute stress – short-term form of stress that stems from the demands and pressures of the recent past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future.
  2. Chronic stress – long-term form of stress that derives from unending feelings of despair/hopelessness.

Coping with Stress

Coping skills are essential in stress management. How well do you manage your stress? Take this 20-minute Coping and Management Skills Test in Psychology Today and find out. Click here for the 38-question self test.

Various studies have shown that exposure to persistent stress can result in long-term or permanent changes in the way you respond:

  • Emotionally – e.g., increased likelihood of depression
  • Physiologically – e.g., decreased ability to regulate inflammatory responses due to decreased tissue sensitivity to cortisol (your primary stress hormone and regulator of inflammation)
  • Behaviorally – e.g., increased smoking, decreased exercise and sleep, poor medical compliance

These changes can affect your susceptibility to and the development and progression of disease.   Continue reading “How Stress Causes Heart Attacks and Disease”