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 Dr. George Jacob
Heart Infocenter


Alternative and Complementary Remedies for Arteriosclerosis And Atherosclerosis

Stress and Arteriosclerosis

In recent years, we have read and heard much about the connection between stress and coronary heart disease. The most commonly reported incident preceding a heart attack is an emotionally upsetting event, particularly one that involves anger. There also is evidence that people who become easily emotionally upset are more likely to develop hardening of the arteries. In addition, some common ways of coping with stress, such as overeating, heavy drinking, and smoking, are clearly bad for your heart.

Stress affects the cardiovascular adversely in several ways:

Stress raises blood pressure

Stress can make the heart beat harder and faster. Stress affects the blood pressure a number of ways:

  1. When we're frightened, worried, angry or otherwise stressed, the brain stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. This then prompts the adrenal glands to pump out adrenaline- like substances. These, in turn, increase the heart rate and the strength of the heartbeats causing the blood pressure to go up.

  2. Stress and the associated negative thoughts and other signs of stress causes the adrenal glands to release several hormones (such as aldosterone and 40-some varieties of cortisone). These hormones cause your body to retain sodium and water, which, in turn, elevates your blood pressure.

  3. With chronic stress, the blood vessels constrict or "tighten up." This makes it harder for the blood to flow through. This causes the blood pressure to go up also.

  4. With chronic stress, the chemistry of the blood changes, making it more likely to clot. This means there's a greater chance that a clot will form and trigger a heart attack by getting stuck in a partially narrowed artery in the heart.

Stress increases cholesterol.

When you are angry, frustrated, depressed, or humiliated, the negative thoughts can cause cholesterol levels in the body to rise. Many studies have shown this relationship between stress and elevated cholesterol. If you stress people by throwing them into ice cold water, for example, their cholesterol will rise. If you threaten them, if you tell them they're going be fired or they are going to have to take difficult tests, their cholesterol levels will also go up. Many studies have shown that stressful conditions can cause cholesterol to soar by as much as 30 percent.

By keeping your cholesterol high, stress puts you at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Stress and elevated cholesterol are intimately related. Anger, fear, "hurry-itis," feeling that you are a failure and other negative thoughts increase blood pressure and cholesterol. These thoughts are killers.

Stress can cause sudden death

Stress can kill. Suddenly flooding the body with high-voltage chemicals such as adrenaline, noradrenalin and ACTH can cause the coronary arteries to constrict, impeding the flow of blood to the heart muscle. The heart muscles overwork. The blood pressure is raised by the constriction in the peripheral arteries. The result? The heart beat abnormally.

A clinical study has shown that the stress of public speaking can cause the heart to beat in irregular and potentially dangerous ways.

"Your thoughts, fears, and emotions often stimulate detectable physical conditions, though you are almost never conscious of this link or in conscious control of it. But the implications of this discovery are stunning: if you make disease happen, you also have the power to change it, even to get rid of it. Disease often forces people to alter negative thoughts, useless behaviors, and ill feelings. Through the power of your mind, you control the matter that is your body. From the poly-pharmacy of more than fifty hormones produced in your brain which stimulate the various organs of your body, your mind does influence matter. Anything that interferes with the production and dispersal of these hormones has an impact on your body."

Barbara H. Levine, author of "Your Body Believes Every Word You Say"

Anger, fear, frustration, rage, "unforgiveness" and other negative, stressful thoughts can raise blood pressure, elevate cholesterol and disrupt the heart's normal rhythm. Negative thinking is a disease. You need to fill your mind with a daily "preemptions' of positive thoughts. Positive thoughts are a very powerful medicine. Repeating the positive affirmations very often is a powerful medicine. See the mind-body medicine for more details.

The good news is that sensible health habits can have a protective effect. Regular physical activity not only relieves stress, but can directly lower your risk of heart disease. Recent research also shows that involvement in a stress management program following a heart attack decreases the chances of further heart-related problems.

To learn more about stress and how to manage it, see holisticonline.com Stress Management Infocenter.

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