e-book Women, Stress, and Heart Disease

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This kind of long-term exposure to stress takes a toll on your cardiovascular system and leaves you vulnerable to anxiety, depression and CVD. Learning to manage stressful situations can help you reduce this risk or avoid making your condition worse if you are already living with cardiovascular disease.

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When faced with a stressful situation, your body reacts by circulating stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones send signals that prepare your body to take action, called a stress response. As a result, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, your breathing becomes faster and shallow, you start to sweat, and your entire body tenses up. When you are under stress, specific changes occur in your body, most of which you would never notice:.

Anxiety is more than the occasional or daily stress. It is one of the most distressing emotions people experience. It includes periods of nervousness or fears that often happen during difficult moments in life.

Anxiety becomes a serious problem when it is persistent and interferes with your daily life, affecting your behaviour, thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. Usually, anxiety develops when a combination of risk factors occurs and triggers an emotional overload of sorts. Sometimes anxiety is overshadowed by another mental disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder in which episodes of depression and mania are present. Anxiety increases the risk for palpitations, an irregular heartbeat, and heart that races or spasms.

Any of these responses may lead to cardiac complications. Anxiety may also lead to unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking, overeating, poor sleep, and decreased physical activity. Almost everyone feels sad or depressed at times, but clinical depression is stronger and lasts longer.

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When sadness is accompanied by the inability to cope with everyday life, it may indicate depression. There is no single cause of depression, but a combination of factors or situations can increase the risk.

Brain activity 'key in stress link to heart disease' - BBC News

Typical contributing causes to depression include unfortunate life events, illness, a chemical imbalance in the brain, genetics, certain medications and drug or alcohol abuse. With depression, you can have elevated levels of stress hormones. These have direct physical effects that put your heart at risk. They increase the risk of blood clotting and cause problems with the inner lining of your blood vessels. This leads to the buildup of plaque and to the development of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Depression also has indirect effects that cause added risks to your heart.

It weakens your immune system and, like anxiety, influences some of the decisions you make around exercise, healthy eating, smoking, and taking medications safely. People with depression have a more difficult time finding the energy and drive to make healthy lifestyle changes. What are the other effects of stress on your body? When you live a stressful life, it can be very difficult to make healthy lifestyle choices. Exposure to high stress levels may cause you to skip exercise or eat unhealthy foods. You may even respond by overeating, smoking, and consuming too much alcohol.

A number of additional health risks may be associated with stress. The most common include autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, immune system suppression and infertility.

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Any sort of change can make you feel stressed out, but different groups of people react differently and are more sensitive to stress:. Older adults:. People with chronic illnesses:. There is no single cause for anxiety.

Heart Disease Risk Factors: Stress

Generally, anxiety stems from a combination of factors. Anxiety disorders usually result from more complex causes. The risk for anxiety depends on multiple factors, including genetic predisposition, past experience, beliefs and behaviour, gender women are more commonly diagnosed or hospitalized with anxiety compared with men and environment or life events.

Depression can affect anyone at any time and tends to affect women more than men. Although it can occur at any age, it generally begins in the late teens to mids. The risk for depression increases in heart disease patients. About one in five heart patients experiences clinical depression. Other risk factors include a family history of depression, stressful life situations such as problems with relationships or stress at work, home, or school , negative life events for example, childhood abuse or divorce and imbalances in neurotransmitters chemicals that transmit messages between brain cells.

Symptoms of stress can affect different aspects of your life and can be divided into four categories. Symptoms of Anxiety and Drepression include:. Stress does not require a diagnosis because it is not a mental illness. Rather, prolonged stress poses a danger to your mental health that can eventually lead to illness.

For general anxiety, diagnosis begins with you. Try to identify whether you have experienced any of the following on most days for six months or more:. Please note that it is intended as an educational aid and is not designed to provide a clinical diagnosis. General anxiety can be treated with coping strategies and cognitive therapy, which promote positive thinking and help change anxious thoughts into more positive emotions.

Haythe adds. Finally, if you have a family history of heart disease, tell your doctor about it so they can monitor your risk. Goff says. There are a few classic signs of a heart attack. The American Heart Association recommends calling and getting to a hospital right away if you experience any of these:. But symptoms may present differently in women than in men. Women are more likely to have the less obvious symptoms—like nausea and a vague chest discomfort or tightness—rather than the stereotypical crushing chest pain. So it's important to seek medical attention if you're experiencing any new or distressing symptoms like these, even if you're unsure whether it's serious or not.

It's also important to be aware of the signs of an underlying heart issue, Laxmi Mehta, M. Many people have heart disease without knowing it, and it develops slowly over time and may not be obvious, the U. National Library of Medicine says.

Stress poses double risk to women after heart attack

Symptoms of heart disease include chest pain, ankle swelling, and shortness of breath, and these should be a tip-off that something requires your doctor's attention, according to the U. National Library of Medicine. Addressing symptoms like these early on with your doctor may even help prevent a heart attack or stroke down the line. Above all, pay attention to your body and don't be afraid to speak up to your doctor if you think something is off. Sign up for our Newsletter and join us on the path to wellness. Spring Challenge.

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Stressful life events tied to heart disease in older black women

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