Since February is American Heart Month, we’ve teamed up with the American Heart Association to bring you heart-healthy tips all month long! Our last post in this series featured Activities to Keep Your Heart Healthy.
Getting – and staying – healthy takes a combination of good habits, like exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep. But what part does stress play in overall health?
We asked board-certified cardiologist Tara Narula, M.D. to share how stress affects the heart:
Stress does a lot of things in the body. It will increase inflammation by increasing cortisol, which does damage over the long term. It releases other hormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine, which raise blood pressure. That’s good if you are trying to escape a wild animal, but if you are constantly being fed these hormones through everyday stress (for example, trying to meet deadlines, rushing to make meetings, etc.), it’s causing damage over time to all your blood vessels. That damage increases the risk of plaque buildup or can even cause a rupture of plaque. In some cases, intense stress can cause a heart attack.
Stress is not something we often talk a ton about, but it’s important to maintaining your health. There are ways to turn off a stress response. You can help moderate stress with exercise, yoga, meditation or other relaxation exercises.
If you feel that you should cut down on the stress in your life, try reducing it by getting active outside, going for a run, meditating, even getting more sleep.
Board-certified cardiologist Tara Narula, M.D., is a volunteer spokesperson for the American Heart Association, Assistant Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Hofstra University NSLIJ School of Medicine and Associate Director of the Cardiac Care Unit at Lenox Hill Hospital/NSLIJ in Manhattan. She also serves as a medical contributor for “CBS This Morning.”