Perceived Stress Can Damage Heart Like “Real” Stress


New research published in the American Journal of Cardiology shows that feeling stressed can have the same negative effects on your body as being stressed.  It found that people reporting perceived stress had higher risk of heart disease, the same reaction occurring in people who experienced stress. When people indicate high stress levels, it triggers a reaction in the autonomic nervous system. The mind recognizes a need to take action to reduce the stress, and this prompts the body to prepare to execute the response by increasing adrenaline levels and blood pressure to give you an energy boost. In ancient times, this reaction was part of the fight-or-flight instinct that prepared early humans to face a predator or run from it. While today, our bodies continue to prepare for perceived danger or stress in the same manner, the response is typically much less physical. The constant ramping up without physical exertion can lead to cardiovascular damage.

The study followed participants for fourteen years, tracking when participants were diagnosed with, hospitalized for, or died from a heart problem. This data was combined with the participants self-reported feelings of intense stress. The results showed that participants who consistently reported high levels of stress were nearly 30% more likely to develop coronary heart disease. To decrease your feelings of stress on a daily basis, Women’s Health recommends several tips. Try meditating to relax your mind. Drink green tea to absorb theanine, and avoid caffeine. Eat foods that will lift your spirits, like chocolate, and starchy snacks. Create a space that you use solely for relaxation with no distractions. Listen to music or get a beauty treatment like a massage. Take a hot bath, and exercise for 20 minutes daily to boost endorphins and lower stress levels.

Source courtesy of Women’s Health Magazine Blog. Image courtesy of Chris Kresser.