The unfortunate truth is that chronic, long-term stress can increase your risk of both stroke and heart disease. It’s a scary thought that we hope won’t add more stress, but like always – we’ve got your back! We share some Instant Stress Busters at the end of this post to help you out. It’s all a matter of the mind, so take a deep breath and let’s dive in.
Stress and Blood Vessels
Damaged blood vessels are the precursor to stroke and heart disease, and people who suffer from chronic stress are more likely to damage their blood vessels by having high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis, or hardened arteries, the leading cause of stroke and heart attack.
Are Your Emotions Inflamed?
Atherosclerosis progresses when there are high levels of chemicals in the body called pro-inflammatory cytokines – remember, chronic inflammation is bad! Interestingly, the same part of the brain involved with regulating inflammation is also involved with emotion… Let’s see how this all correlates.
The Proof Is In the Pudding
In a study at the University of Pittsburgh, 157 healthy adults were asked to regulate their emotional reaction to unpleasant pictures while their brain activity was measured. The researchers found that those who had higher brain activity when regulating their negative emotions had elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Furthermore, they exhibited increased thickness of the carotid artery wall, a precursor of atherosclerosis. This study illustrates that emotional stress impacts your risk of stroke and heart disease. Now, what can we do about it?
3 Instant Stress Busters
- Take slow, deep breaths. This will help decrease your blood pressure and reduce stress. Since healthy blood pressure is essential for stroke prevention, this exercise can be used anytime you want! Not just when you’re stressed.
- Talk slowly and deliberately. This will help reduce anxiety and clear your mind to give you a better ability to react reasonably to stressful situations.
- Get outside. Taking a break can work wonders for your stress levels. Even just a 5 minute stroll down the sidewalk can help put some space between you and your stressor. Taking a step back can help you realize that whatever is stressing you really isn’t that big of a deal.
And there you have it. The awful truth about stress and stroke and 3 easy ways to reduce your stress right now. If you have a loved one who suffers from chronic stress, share this article – it could save their life.