Manage Your Stress Chapter 9

Stress Harms the Heart & Blood Vessels


The Heart

Stress creates an increased demand for oxygen throughout the body. In times of stress, your blood vessels are dilated, you breathe more rapidly and your body is ready to run. This means your heart must work harder, beating faster to speed oxygen rich blood to the extremities. Your heart, as you know, is a muscle. This is some workout! The cardiac muscle gets larger, but it does not work as efficiently. Stress can also contribute to irregularities in the electrical impulses that accompany each heartbeat. These complications create a greater risk of heart abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, and heart attack in people with chronic stress.


The Vessels

Because the heart is working so hard to pump sufficient blood through the body during stress, coronary blood vessels can spasm as a result of the strain. Also, any long-term elevation in blood pressure increases the risk of all kinds of heart disease, as well as strokes. If the heart cannot pump hard enough to deliver oxygenated blood to all of your extremities, tissues may have too little oxygen to thrive or repair cells.The kidneys are one example of an organ in which lack of sufficient oxygenated blood can cause inefficient function and complications. The stress hormone cortisol complicates matters (once again!) by interfering in tissue repair.

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