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Will stress hurt my heart?

Many of us have jokingly said, "I was so upset I could have died," and studies have been conducted over the past 20 years to look at the links between emotions and illness. In studies with monkeys, blood levels of chemicals which produce excitement were found in a well known phenomenon called "fight or flight" patterns. These patterns can be brought on in an active attempt to cope with stress, and the result of experiencing this defensive reaction over a long period of time can increase various chemicals in the body which may actually be dangerous to the cardiovascular system. Consequently, it is important to find methods of controlling our emotional reaction to stress in an effort to delay or prevent it from causing physical illness. This requires an active role on the part of the stressed individual to change their behavior to preserve their health. Possible methods of achieving this goal would be counseling in the prevention of stress-related behavior, anger management, relaxation tapes, breathing methods, developing an exercise program such as yoga or other types of emotion-calming exercises, and possible dietary changes.

People's response to stress is quite variable however. There is a subcategory of persons who are often referred to as "hot reactors". Under stress, these individuals tend to have a marked elevation of blood pressure, thus predisposing them to coronary events. Many of these people, known as Type A personalities, seem to have a high sense of urgency and a very strong work ethic. A component of hostility towards their environment or circumstances in this group of individuals also seems to heighten their tendency towards heart attack and stroke. The opposite type of personality, that is, a "whistle-while-you-work" type of person, may find work to be a very positive part of life and may not suffer from it effects, even if working long hours and having a strong commitment to achieving success.


Galichia Medical Group, P.A.
2600 N Woodlawn
Wichita, KS 67220

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