Categories: Cardiology

Stress and Cardiovascular Disease

Stress and cardiovascular disease

Stress is a part and parcel of everybody’s life. It is a factor which you cannot get rid of in your life, but you can surly modify to control it. Stress has a very important role in cardiovascular diseases. It’s a risk factor which we cannot quantify. Stress affects us in different ways. It could have physical signs like fatigue, muscle weakness, headache, backache etc. At times, along with physical distress, it could even show emotional signs of distress like feeling of helplessness, depression, irritability etc. The response to stress varies from person to person and some individuals have a better capability to deal with stress than others.

What is our common behavior to deal with stress?

Some people eat down to relieve stress, some people do smoke or have alcohol, some people might do extra work or try to do multiple things at one time but do not do productive work and some people sleep too less to cope with stress. All of these reactions to stress are counterproductive and only lead to further stress. This starts the vicious cycle and takes a toll on our body, and especially our heart.

What are consequences of stress on cardiovascular system?

Mental stress and depression is a known risk factors for atherosclerosis. It creates the conditions in our body which are conducive to cholesterol deposition in the arteries and other parts of body. It leads to an altered lifestyle as well as has other physiologic reactions in the body like increased levels of the stress hormones, increased blood sugar levels and higher serum cortical levels. All of these are bad for health of your cardiovascular system. Acute stress or depression is a major precipitating factor for an acute coronary syndrome, commonly known as heart attack.

Depression after a cardiac event or diagnosis

Depression after a heart attack is very common and is an often ignored part of the treatment by the doctors or rehabilitation programs. It’s normal to feel bad after a cardiac illness, but the doctor needs to monitor the length of the duration which it lasts for. Prolonged anxiety, fear or depression after a cardiac event of diagnosis has to be evaluated by the doctor and his care team. The most important treatment for this type of stress requires a psychological counseling. Treatments have lots of benefits in this group of patients post counseling, as these people are otherwise more likely to skip rehabilitation schedule. They also have a poor compliance to medication, and are less likely to take care of their physical health. It does improve the patient’s quality of life after recovery.

How to control stress?

There are few tips to fight with stress. Talking with family and friends is a great stress reliever. Positive self-talk is an important way to avoid stress. Regular physical activity decreases the chances of stress. Engaging oneself activities like in walking, cycling, dancing, swimming or biking to improve your physical and mental strength, is a good way to maintain one’s emotional wellbeing. Daily relaxation, yoga and meditation are important ways to counter stress.  Laughter is a good therapy. Don’t forget to laugh out loud at a joke or while watching a funny movie or a comic strip.

Giving up bad habits like smoking, alcohol, and caffeine helps in stress management. Planning your work in advance is also helpful. Having enough sleep is useful and try not to worry about day to day things. Finally, volunteering is another practice to relieve stress. To help somebody and to give back to the society brings a feeling of fulfillment in you. Helping others helps you!

Dr. Ram Chitlangia

Consultant Cardiologist

Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Jaipur

Narayana Health

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