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stress and the heart (1)

Stress and the Heart of the Matter!

The More You Know, the Less You Stress

Stress isn’t all bad. In fact, stress tells the body how to react in dangerous situations. Our fight or flight tendencies – increased brain activity, a quickening pulse, tensed muscles, etc. – are meant to help us escape a bear in the wilderness or focus on an important task when under pressure. But our bodies were not made for prolonged stress. Long term stress can be detrimental to your health.

In a recent study, adults with normal blood pressure that had high levels of stress were more likely to develop high blood pressure. They were also more likely to experience a heart attack or stroke in the future. In contrast, those with lower levels of stress were less likely to experience heart-related issues in the future.

For 13 years, researchers monitored the heart health and stress hormones of over 400 people. They paid attention to the level of stress hormones in urine samples and their relationship to participants’ heart health.

In the end, every time a person’s stress hormones doubled, there was a 21-31% increase in the risk of developing high blood pressure. Similarly, when someone’s cortisol levels doubled (one of the stress hormones), there was a 90% increased risk of cardiovascular events.

Now, keep in mind that heart disease was the number one leading cause of death in 2020. COVID-19, a virus that is a higher risk for those with high blood pressure, was the 3rd leading cause of death, and stroke was the 5th. In other words, heart health matters. Although family history can play a role in heart disease, there is a lot we can do to keep our hearts healthy. Even simple, daily, stress-relieving activities should not be overlooked as a way to keep our hearts healthy.

Want to know more about getting stress under control? Take a look at this post on relieving current and ongoing stress. Or want to know more about heart disease prevention? Check out the other posts in our series below.


Elevated stress hormones linked to higher risk of high blood pressure and heart events

I’m So Stressed Out! Fact Sheet

Provisional Mortality Data

The Leading Causes of Death in the US for 2020

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