Here's how stress causes heart attack
New studies may have revealed how stress can cause heart attack.
Stress leads to many illnesses, including heart disease and stroke – but do you know why? Now scientists might have the answer: your amygdala. (No, not the princess from Star Wars!) The amygdala is responsible for your emotional memories, and for your autonomic fear response and appetite control. In other words, your amygdala influences what you do when you're scared or bothered, like whether you try to run or you just freeze. It's a little bit like the control center that processes how your body responds when you perceive yourself under attack (although other regions in your brain are responsible too).
The problem is that when you're stressed (like with too much work), your brain and body process it like you're under attack. But when you're under a lot of stress all the time, your amygdala gets overloaded and has a hard time figuring out what's going on. It decides to amp up your stress response and makes your blood vessels inflamed and activates your bone marrow, which are both prime conditions for a heart attack. Why? When your arteries are inflamed, they're more likely to develop blockages. When your bone marrow is activated, it's more likely to cause blood clots that can act as the final clogging pieces that fully block your inflamed blood vessels.
Harvard cardiologist, Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, who lead the study says that lowering your stress isn't just about keeping you sane – it's about protecting your heart. He, and other doctors, advise meditating or practicing yoga if you live a high-stress life. Monks who meditated have been found to modulate their amygdala, which led to a reversal in any heightened stress response and a boost in social connectedness.
Taking a walk in nature or planting trees in your backyard can also reduce stress. Researchers found that spending even just five minutes around trees and nature boosts your immunity, lowers your stress and blood pressure, and improves your mood and sleep – all of which help lower your overall chronic stress. In fact, the act of using trees to lower stress and improve health has been coined “shinrin-yoku,” which means “forest bathing.” Japanese researchers found that trees, like the Japanese Maple, gives off phytonicides, which when inhaled boosts your levels of cancer-fighting immune cells!
Take care of your heart by making sure you avoid chronic stress. If your business life won't allow you to do that, then make sure to take counteractive measures by regularly practicing stress-relieving activities, like meditation, yoga, and immersing yourself in nature.