Is Stress Breaking Your Heart?

Is Stress Breaking Your Heart?

Whenever we experience stress, it affects us in more ways than one.  In particular, stress takes its toll on our heart, which may lead to heart disease.  Our body is an amazing machine – and especially our heart. 

After all, it is built to last through 75 or so years without a hitch; It beats tirelessly, never rests, never gets exhausted, never suffers lactate build up and still takes us through maximum physical exertion of running to catch a toddler hell-bent on getting to the busy road!  It can even take the super stress buzz of bungee jumping or motocross racing.

But the regular daily stress coupled with the ever increasing times when we max out with adrenaline means that over time, stress inevitably takes its toll on our hearts.  Left unchecked, stress will contribute to heart ill-health and ultimately heart disease.

Now we all know that there is little you can do to avoid the adrenaline rush caused by chasing an errant child away from danger (and believe me, I know!), but you can better prepare your heart to deal with these challenges through regular exercise and making healthy food choices.

Stress induced heat disease can be improved with exercise and diet. 

And whilst even doctors themselves debate on the benefits, or otherwise of all sorts of foodstuffs, ranging from red meat to eggs, oily fish to GM cereals, they all agree that for most people in the Western world, decreasing salt intake and increasing consumption of fresh vegetables will help.  After all, your heart, like the rest of your body, is a product of what you eat and do. 

So to reduce your risk of heart disease, you need to take better care of your heart.  And if reducing the stress in your life is not wholly realistic right now, you can at least make better food choices and take moderate exercise.  Not only will this put your heart in better physical shape and help it to respond to stress better, it will actually go a long way to reducing the stress you feel.

Learn what works for your own body.  Take care of your heart.  Eliminate the stress you can; and exercise and make better food choices to mitigate the stress you can’t. 

The Stress “Columbo” Comment

When it comes to exercise and stress, most of us think back to past conversations we have had during visits to the doctor or physician.  You know the sort of thing.  They take our blood pressure and, noting it’s on the high side, comment that we need to take it easy and let go of some bit of our schedule before the stress kills us.  Fair enough we think.

But then they always make that last “Columbo” comment – you remember the disheveled detective from the 70s played brilliantly by Peter Falk?  Whenever the villain thought he was on the verge of getting away with it, Columbo would always turn and say “oh, there’s just one more thing..”.  POW!  You just KNEW it would be the final thing that would totally solve the case and make everything fall into place.

The doctor ALWAYS says “Oh, and doing more exercise will help”. 

So, what does exercise have to do with stress?

Well, our bodies send out chemicals, hormones that regulate how we deal with stressful situations.  We’ve all heard about adrenaline and how it’s the hormone that gives us that “fight or flight,” reaction – racing of the heart and increase in sugar output – to get us ready to run from danger or stand up and face it. 

Well the “fight or flight” response is also known as the stress response.  And we secrete adrenaline whenever we experience any kind of stress – not just real physical danger.  So, every time we have to hit the brakes fast to avoid an accident, the boss brings forward the already tight deadline by another day or our preschooler split his head open falling out a tree, our bodies go into that “fight or flight” mode.  And if we don’t discharge that adrenaline through some form of exertion, it leaves us on edge. 

Do this a dozen times a day and it will lead to adrenal exhaustion.  So, what can we do? 


Even gentle exercise can imitate that “real danger encounter” and allows us to get rid of the adrenaline.  So, hit the stairs while at work.  Go for a walk in the park.  Take a brisk walk around the block.  Bop to the radio whilst at the coffee machine.  Whatever you do, learn to diffuse that stress buzz with exercise.

Your body will thank you for it!