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We’ve all experienced a stressful event in our lives where we were completely overwhelmed. Our hearts beat faster, our hands started shaking, and the world seems to close in around us.
But then things got better… or did they?
We think of stressful situations or stressful time periods in our lives as temporary events. But once the stress has dissipated, are we left any worse for the wear?
A new study has the answer, at least when it comes to its lasting impact on your heart’s health…
Significant life trauma
Some types of stress are clearly more minor than others. So, while running a little late getting to work might trigger some anxiety, the loss of a loved one, receiving a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, going through a natural disaster, or experiencing violence takes the idea of stress to a whole new level.
If you’ve gone through one of these events, it’s likely that you’ve had what researchers call a severe stress reaction.
And there is building evidence that experiencing a severe stress reaction is linked to the development of heart disease. So, researchers in Sweden decided to try to measure that risk…
Gathering information from the Swedish population and health registers they explored the role of clinically diagnosed PTSD, acute stress reaction, adjustment disorder, and other severe stress reactions in the development of cardiovascular disease or CVD.
They compared the effects on heart health among siblings and among the general population. And, after controlling for all other factors, they found that severe stress reactions to significant life events or trauma were linked to a much higher risk of several types of CVD.
In fact, there was a whopping 64 percent higher risk of heart disease among people with a stress-related disorder compared to their unaffected sibling. The findings were similar for people with a stress-related disorder compared to the general population.
They also found that the risk of experiencing severe heart-related events — like cardiac arrest or heart attack — is particularly high in the first six months after a severe stress reaction and for the first year for things like heart failure.
Protecting your heart from severe stress
A 64 percent risk of CVD is significant in my book. But is there much you can do to reduce that risk?
There’s no way to predict if or when you may experience a severe stress reaction due to trauma or a significant life event. Life is full of them for most of us. It’s not unusual to lose a loved one, live through a natural disaster or face a serious illness.
But even though controlling certain life events is beyond anyone’s control, it is possible to prepare your body by teaching it how to handle stress better.
Here are a few ways:
Change your perception of stress. By this, I mean to realize that often the way the body physically reacts to stress is similar to how it reacts to exercise… a pounding heart and rapid breathing. Both Dr. Terry Wahls and EHO contributor Craig Cooper have written about taking your stress and letting it work for you and how a shift in perspective can turn stress into a challenge. What’s important about these techniques is also allowing your body and mind time to destress and heal, just as you would following a workout at the gym.
Meditation represents one of the most well-known methods of stress relief. Meditation can consist of simply sitting in a peaceful place and calming your thoughts, focusing on controlling your breathing or mentally repeating a word to yourself over and over again. Research shows that these techniques produce physiological changes that can offset the harm caused by stress.
Reduce stress through diet. Start with adding green leafy vegetables to your diet. Most of them are rich in folate, the nutrient that helps your body manufacture transmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, that help regulate mood.
Consider stress-reducing supplements, including:
- Ashwagandha Root – This ancient Ayurvedic herb has been shown to help with stress management, healthy cortisol (stress hormone) production, energy levels, hormone production and strengthening the adrenals, which produce the hormones that control your stress response.
- Rhodiola Rosea Extract – This adaptogen herb contains an active compound called Rosavin that’s been shown to help lower cortisol.
- Holy Basil Powder – This adaptogen herb helps support healthy cortisol levels, reduce anxiety, and boost your mood.
- L-Theanine – Found in tea and featured in Chinese medicine for over 5,000 years, L-Theanine is an amino acid prized for its ability to support healthy sleep, relaxation and a calm mind.
If you take steps to learn how to live with minor stressors better, it’s possible you might be able to protect your heart somewhat when you’re faced with a significant stressor. It’s certainly worth a try.
Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!
- Stress-related disorders linked to heightened risk of cardiovascular disease — EurekAlert!
- Stand up to stress — Easy Health Options®