What is stress?

May 04, 2017

There are numerous definitions in the literature for stress. The scientific definition for stress is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action.

Relationship between stress and cardiovascular diseases

Each individual feels stress in different ways and reacts to it differently that might lead to a wide variety of health problems more specifically, heart diseases.

Evidences from studies did not show any robust direct correlation between stress and risk for cardiovascular diseases, but it's possible that it may contribute to individuals’ accumulated risk level and coping mechanisms. It may affect behaviours and factors that increase heart disease risk are high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating. For instance, some people might cope with stress by smoking and alcohol consumption as well as by eating unhealthy food. Such behaviour possibly will increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, again it is not universally agreed which stress causes heart disease!!

So far, there are no evidences to suggest that stress causes coronary heart disease or heart attack, but it is speculated that it may happen because of hormonal changes during stress. Studies show that these changes might lead to reduction of blood flow to the heart.

It might also cause irregular heartbeat and increase the likelihood of blood clotting. All of these can trigger the development of cardiovascular diseases. Individuals who already suffer from atherosclerosis, if they become acutely stressed they might experience chest pains caused by the arteries of heart contracting and reducing the blood flow.

Ultimately, all these when over it might damage the lining of the blood vessels and increase susceptibility to atherosclerosis.

Stress and heart disease is very important and a critical subject. Researches and studies in this area are scarce in the literature, and therefore, more research is needed to determine how stress contributes to heart diseases.

Management of stress will reduce heart problem

Obviously, changing behaviour and circumstances, where possible, may help in reducing risk of developing cardiovascular disease and it is important to learn how to relax specially in stressful situations and when a person feels anxious.

For example, some people find that physical activity mainly yoga or other relaxation techniques might help in reducing level of stress, person should also avoid situations that make him/her feel stressed. Furthermore, changing lifestyle in a positive way can help the person feel better and will be able to cope with stress. Maintaining a positive attitude, not smoking, enjoying a healthy balanced diet with healthy weight are good ways to deal with stress.

There are evidences in literature from few studies using psychosocial therapies involving psychological and social aspects which indicate that managing stress might be effective for heart disease in terms of preventing recurrence of heart attack.

Finally, evidences are few in the literature regarding this subject. Therefore, encouraging more studies and researches in the area of stress and heart disease are warranted in order to correlate the diseases more scientifically and robust.