Stress

Stress is bumper-to-bumper traffic when you're in a hurry. It's a worrisome illness, an argument with your partner, a job turning sour. It's the need to care for an ailing parent and a pile of unpaid bills.

Stress has many faces, and creeps into our lives from many directions. No matter what causes it, stress puts the body and the mind on edge. It floods the body with stress hormones. The heart pounds. Muscles tense. Breathing quickens. The stomach churns.

The body's response to stress was honed in our prehistory. Collectively called the "fight-or-flight" response, it has helped humans survive threats like animal attacks, fires, floods, and conflict with other humans. Today, obvious dangers like those aren't the main things that trigger the stress response. Any situation you perceive as threatening, or which requires you to adjust to a change, can set it off. And that can spell trouble.

Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. It can dampen the immune system, increasing susceptibility to colds and other common infections. It can contribute to asthma, digestive disorders, cancer, and other health problems. New research even supports the notion that high levels of stress somehow speed up the aging process.

Though stress is inevitable, you can help control your body's response to it. Exercise, meditation, invoking the relaxation response, and mindfulness are great stress busters.

Stress Articles

Stressing about heart health

Stress has many healthy qualities, but exposure to chronic stress over long periods can have a profound effect on heart health. However, people who learn to identify stress triggers, and change how they react to them, can lower their risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.  More »

Longer work hours may boost stroke risk

People who work at least 55 hours per week may face a higher risk of stroke than people who work 35 to 40 hours per week. Working long hours may lead people to sit more, sleep less, and have higher stress levels-all of which can boost stroke risk. More »

Tests for hidden heart disease

Electrocardiograms and exercise stress tests are not recommended for checking otherwise healthy men for hidden heart disease. Traditional cardiac risk factors provide a more accurate assessment of heart attack risk than screening tests do. The key factors are age, body mass index, family history, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and whether you smoke or have diabetes. A test called a coronary artery calcium scan can help men make decisions about preventive heart care in certain circumstances. (Locked) More »

Calm your anxious heart

Anxiety disorders alter the stress response, affecting the same brain systems that influence cardiovascular functions such as heart rate and blood pressure. People who have ongoing anxiety problems suffer higher rates of heart attack and other cardiac events. Managing anxiety, depression, and stress can improve a person’s sense of well-being and lower the risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. (Locked) More »

How a sleep shortfall can stress your heart

Chronic sleep deprivation strains the cardiovascular system, which may raise the risk of a heart attack or stroke. The most common cause, insomnia (trouble falling and staying asleep) often stems from stress, depression, or anxiety. Sleep apnea, which causes loud snoring and frequent breathing lapses during sleep, is more prevalent in people at risk for heart disease. (Locked) More »

Tips to avoid caregiver stress

People who provide in-home, long-term care for older adult family members with a chronic illness are often overwhelmed by it. The weight of the job may result in a type of stress known as caregiver burden. This can manifest in many ways, including physical ailments, mental illness, and social isolation. To avoid caregiver burden, one can ask for help, either from a family member or a service; take care of yourself physically; pay attention to emotional health; reduce stress; and maintain social connections. (Locked) More »

Retirement stress: Taking it too easy can be bad for you, too

Retirement brings many changes, including a less structured day and an altered home life. It takes time and effort to make the transition successfully. Being engaged mentally and socially is also key to well-being in retirement. Doing too much or doing too little can lead to anxiety, depression, and other health issues. Men need activities that structure their time and are meaningful to them. Taking hobbies and interests to a more challenging level, providing service to others as a community volunteer, and learning new skills can all fuel a man’s mental and social engagement. (Locked) More »

Stressful job may raise stroke risk

Having a demanding job with little control may slightly increase the risk of a stroke. Job strain may activate factors that predispose a person to developing a blood clot, which can lead to a stroke. (Locked) More »

The problem with plaque: Even lesser amounts are still risky

A normal stress test can often provide reassurance that there are no severely narrowed segments in the heart’s arteries. But many people with normal stress tests may still have plaque buildup in the coronary arteries that is too small to show up on a stress test. This is known as non-obstructive coronary artery disease, and it can lead to heart attack or death, especially if there are many areas of plaque or multiple coronary arteries are affected. Recognizing and treating this condition with medicines and lifestyle changes can reduce heart attack risk. (Locked) More »