When stress takes a toll on your heart

When stress takes a toll on your heart

By Paul Huang, MD
Interventional Cardiologist & Medical Director, Swedish Heart & Vascular

When you face danger, your body’s built-in alarm system triggers the production of adrenalin and cortisol. Adrenalin makes your heart beat faster and cortisol produces sugar to help you physically and mentally react. Your body returns to normal when the danger is over.

Unlike cavemen, barbarians and knights, we don’t face extreme danger very often. Unfortunately, every-day stress also triggers your alarm system.

Work. Commute. Kids. Relatives. Friends. Death of a loved one. Money. Everything in life can cause stress.

Stress takes a toll on your body — including your heart. Because stress can linger, your body continues to produce extra adrenalin and cortisol.

When your body’s alarm system doesn’t turn off, you may eat more, exercise less, lose sleep, argue more, forget things, get depressed, or smoke or drink more than usual. These things put an added burden on your heart and increase your risk of heart disease. Recent studies have shown that laughter and positive thinking promote heart health, while anger and job stress can increase the risk of heart attacks.

Here are some tips to protect your heart from stress:
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don’t smoke
  • Learn to say “no”
  • Relax
  • Laugh
  • Be realistic
  • Get enough sleep
  • Make friends

Visit www.swedish.org/heart to learn more about heart health.

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About the Author

Paul Huang, MD

Paul Huang, MD
Interventional Cardiologist & Medical Director, Swedish Heart & Vascular

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