Chronic stress, according to Harvard Medical School physicians, can have real physiological effects on the body, such as on the heart.
This is especially true in times of severe or sudden stress, such as the death of a loved one or disturbing news, which can cause heart stress, or even trip a mild heart attack.
According to Dr. Bhatt in the Harvard Medical Journal, this condition is known as “broken heart syndrome,” and it is much more common in women—even those with no history of heart disease.
While broken heart syndrome is frequently linked to severe forms of stress, the link between chronic stress—such as traffic, marriage, or work-related issues—and heart disease is less clear.
“Stress does cause some people to act in ways that increase their risk for heart disease,” said Dr. Bhatt.
People, for example, frequently turn to comfort foods, which can clog arteries and raise blood pressure. In other cases, people engage in heart-harming behaviors such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, which can ultimately increase one’s risk of developing a heart condition.
“I think stress does lead to heart disease, but I think it’s through these established pathways,” said Dr. Bhatt.
The Harvard Medical School published a list of five heart-healthy tips that can help you reduce your risk of heart disease and relieve stress:
- Remain optimistic
- Develop your own “happy place.”