Everyone experiences stress in their day-to-day life whether it be financial, work, or related to school. A little bit of stress is positive, as it is a way for our bodies telling us that something is wrong and we need to fix it. However, when experiencing constant stress we are known to fall back on the bad habits discussed above. While this in itself should be enough for us to revaluate how we handle our stress, studies show that there is a more direct link to stress and heart disease. Evidence suggests that when we are put into stressful situations, our bodies produce molecules and enzymes that enhance the rate of blood coagulation. This enhanced rate results in an increased risk of intravascular clotting (blood clots) (3). It is suggested that when we are stressed, i.e. fight or flight response, our body increases clotting rate to avoid over bleeding until we are in a less stressful situation (3).
While this mechanism of our body’s increased clotting rate was helpful at a time when we were being hunted, it is now unnecessary and causes us harm. The stress we feel today has less to do with danger, and more with our day-to-day life. Because of this, the stress we feel does not fade away with the danger but is constant and can result in an overall increase of procoagulant molecules in our body for long periods of time. This, in turn can result in an increased risk of blood clots, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Now, how does this information help us? We have no control over molecule and enzyme production in our body; however, we are able to maintain the levels of stress we experience. If you are overly stressed, whether it is from work, school, or other issues, make sure you are giving yourself a break from feeling stressed. Find out what makes you feel happy, or what makes you forget about your worries and try incorporating that something into your daily routine. Not only will your heart will thank you for this, your mind as well.
Exercise should also be considered as an aid to the burden of stress. Studies have shown that exercise can help improve your overall mental health especially people suffering from stress or depression (4.) Any form of exercise, aerobic or anaerobic, has been shown to help increase blood flow throughout the body, and help reduce stress and other mental health issues (4).
1. Heart and Stroke Foundation. (April 2nd 2015) Statistics. Retrieved April 2nd from www.heartandstroke.com.
2. MedicineNet. (2015). Heart Disease and Stress. Retrived on April 2nd 2015 from www.medicinenet.com
3. von Känel, R., Mills, P. J., Fainman, C., & Dimsdale, J. E. (2001). Effect of Psychological stress and Psychiatric Disorders on Blood Coagulation and Fibrinolysis: A Biobehavioral Pathway to Coronary Artery Disease? Psychosomatic Medicine, 63(4), 531-544.
4. Sandlund, E. S., Norlander, T. (2000). The effects of Tai Chi Chuan Relaxation and Exercise on Stress Responses and Wellbeing: An Overview of Research. International Journal of Stress Management, 7(2), 139-149