People across the globe will observe World Heart Day 2023 on September 29 to raise awareness about heart issues. As we all know stress can have a significant impact on heart health. Chronic stress, in particular, can contribute to the development of various cardiovascular problems. Stress triggers the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can temporarily elevate blood pressure and heart rate. This can lead to hypertension or sustained high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. According to Dr Chandrashekhar, Associate Director, Cardiac Sciences, Cardiology, Cardiac Electrophysiology-Pacemaker, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, chronic stress can also disrupt the heart's normal rhythm, potentially leading to arrhythmias or palpitations.
Stress also promotes inflammation throughout the body, which plays a pivotal role in the development of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis involves the buildup of plaque in the arteries, narrowing them and reducing blood flow to the heart. This can culminate in heart attacks or strokes.
Stress often leads to unhealthy behaviours like overeating, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, or a sedentary lifestyle when stressed, all of which increase the risk of heart disease. Stress can also encourage blood clot formation, heightening the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Chronic stress can cause weight gain, particularly around the abdomen, which is linked to heart disease. Sleep problems, often a consequence of stress, further exacerbate heart health issues. Poor sleep quality is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems.
Conditions like anxiety and depression, which are often associated with chronic stress, indirectly affect heart health. Individuals with mental health issues are more prone to unhealthy behaviours and less likely to adhere to recommended medical treatments.
To reduce the impact of stress on heart health, adopting healthy lifestyle and stress management techniques is essential. Lifestyle changes, including regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep, can help reduce stress-related risks. Seeking professional help, such as therapy or counselling, may be necessary for individuals with chronic stress or stress-related mental health conditions. Therefore, proactive stress management and adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle are crucial for maintaining good heart health.