Taking Care of Your Heart: How stress & nutrition impact heart health
Let’s talk about how stress and nutrition can impact your heart.
By: Dr. Nedda Dastmalchi, DO, MA
At Stix, we know that cardiovascular health plays an important role in your quality of life and overall wellbeing. So, we’ve partnered with Dr. Nedda Dastmalchi, DO, MA, a physician and cardiology fellow at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, to get real about heart health in honor of Heart Month.
In the final part of our Taking Care of Your Heart series, we learned more with Dr. Dastmalchi about how stress and nutrition can impact your heart. Keep reading to see what we found out.
How can stress affect your cardiovascular system?
Dr. Dastmalchi: Stress, mental health disorders, negative thinking/outlooks activate our sympathetic nervous system, also known as the “fight or flight” response. This response, although useful when we are in danger or in need of an adrenaline boost, long-term activation can have detrimental effects.
Chronic stress and its resulting stress hormones like cortisol can lead to cardiometabolic syndromes: Increased inflammation, high blood pressure, and increased insulin resistance. These can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Are there heart conditions that are directly linked to stress?
Dr. Dastmalchi: Certain heart conditions, like stress cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome, is a direct result of increased stress on the body. There is an aggregate of stress receptors in the heart muscle that get activated to such a high degree that they can cause a heart attack in an alternative pathway in comparison to a heart attack from a plaque or clot.
Depression is a risk after a heart attack or stroke. Research shows that those who are depressed after a heart attack are more at risk for developing a second attack. This can most definitely be attributed to the inflammatory process we know depression causes and the chronic state of stress as a result. It’s important to note that those who are depressed are less likely to quit smoking, take medications, get proper sleep, practice a healthy diet, or exercise regularly.
Since women are at higher risk for stress-related heart conditions, what can we do to help prevent them?
There are many things you can do to help manage and prevent stress.
Start with self-care
Dr. Dastmalchi: Self-care does not have to mean spending hours on yourself a day. Starting small with 2-minute meditation during the day, exercising, eating well, journaling, and setting boundaries for yourself are ways to help you maintain your mental health. These small daily habits can have a positive effect on your body and mind and can result in lasting goals!