WE all get stressed from time to time but experts have warned that we must keep these levels to a minimum if we want to avoid deadly illnesses.
Researchers have now said that there is a big connection between mind and heart when it comes to our health and wellbeing.
While stress impacts everyone differently, it can, in severe cases lead to heart events such as a stroke or heart attack.
Writing in Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal, experts said elevated stress hormones are linked to a higher risk of high blood pressure and ultimately deadly events.
Over 6,000 people were studied and tested for different hormone levels that contribute to stress.
Hormone levels were measured in a 12-hour overnight urine test.
The participants were then tracked for a period of 13 years and were monitored for development of hypertension and cardiovascular events such as chest pain, the need for an artery-opening procedure, or having a heart attack or stroke.
The experts then analysed the relationship between stress hormones and the development of atherosclerosis – which is a potentially serious condition where arteries become clogged with fatty substances.
They found that on average after a six and a half year follow up, patients whose stress hormones doubled were up to 31 per cent more likely to develop hypertension.
Over an 11-year follow up period there was a 90 per cent increased risk of cardiovascular events with each doubling the level of cortisol.
There was no association between cardiovascular events and catecholamines – which are what help the body respond to stress or fright and prepare the body for ‘fight-or-flight’ reactions.
The experts said that it is hard to study and quanitify stress as it is ‘personal’ and varies in everyone.
They said: “In this research, we used a noninvasive measure — a single urine test — to determine whether such stress might help identify people in need of additional screening to prevent hypertension and possibly cardiovascular events.
“The next key research question is whether and in which populations increased testing of stress hormones could be helpful.
“Currently, these hormones are measured only when hypertension with an underlying cause or other related diseases are suspected.
“However, if additional screening could help prevent hypertension and cardiovascular events, we may want to measure these hormone levels more frequently.”
HOW TO BEAT STRESS
If you think your stress levels could be putting you at risk then there are some things you can do.
Everyone knows that exercise releases feel-good endorphins, which give you a chemical boost.
But getting active can also help lower your stress levels by boosting the chemicals dopamine and serotonin.
Neuroscientist, Dr Tara Swart who works with Symprove, a water-based food supplement brand added: “The gut is often called the second brain as there is a large nerve supply throughout the gastrointestinal system and in the abdominal organs, and some neurotransmitters such a serotonin are to large extent produced in the gut. But serotonin produced in the gut does not cross the blood brain barrier.
“Your gut bacteria will also trigger food cravings in your brain via cytokine messaging to meet their needs.
“So the next time you crave junk food or feel addicted to sugar, think of it as your gut bacteria trying to dictate what you should eat, and see if you can over-ride this.”
Talk to someone
If you’re getting stressed at work, taking a few minutes to chat to your peers can help.
Occupational health expert Professor Cary Cooper says: “If you don’t connect with people, you won’t have support to turn to when you need help.”
Tap into your inner cheerleader
Selina Barker, a life design and career change coach and author of Burnt Out: The Exhausted Persons 6 Step Guide to Thriving in a Fast-Paced World said you should turn down the volume of your inner critic and start turning up the volume of your inner cheerleader.
Selina, who is working with Kalms added: “When you love and believe in yourself and support yourself the same way you would a friend or partner, you will increase your levels of happiness, self-esteem, and confidence.”
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