Stress and heart attack 101

Stress and heart attack go along together as salt and pepper. While stress is one of the causes of heart disease, in some people it can even lead to heart attack.

Although the experience ain't such as the one you see in movies, the dangers are. In order to decrease the risk of stress induced heart attack, you have to know what happens in our body while we are faced with stress.

Also, some people are at higher risk which primarily depends on their health as well as family history of heart attack. However, there are couple of factors which can help decrease the risk of heart attack, by improving cardiovascular system and your ability to deal with stress.


When you are exposed to high levels of stress, your body increases production of fight or flight hormones such as adrenaline, ACTH and cortisol. These hormones raise blood pressure and heart rate, constrict blood vessels in the body, while expanding them in the muscles.

Due to build up of adrenaline in your blood, you may start shaking which is quite normal. All this prepares your for fast, explosive reaction which can save your life, when faced with life threatening situation. On the other hand, while this was life saving when our ancestors were faced with wild beasts which they fought to the death, today it cases more harm than good.

We experience fight or flight reaction because of our job, bills, busy schedule and other factors which aren't life threatning at all. However, since they have significant effect on our life, they are a major source of stress.

Stress increases coagulation factors in the blood thereby protecting us against bleeding, during fight or flight. However, by doing so, stress hormones also increases the chances of blood clots and heart attack.


Some people are at higher risk of heart attack, than other individuals who are faced with stress. High cholesterol and weakened heart function are two main factors which drastically increase the chances of heart attack, especially when combined with stress.

High cholesterol usually leads to formation of plaque on the artery walls and atherosclerosis. Stress hormones can break the plaque which can travel through the bloodstream until it encounters narrowing in the arteries which is small enough for the plaque to close it down, completely.

In this case, when it comes to stress and heart attack, increase in coagulation factors isn't even necessary, for the heart attack to occur. However, it can make things worse, by causing massive heart attack and dying of the heart muscle tissue, on a grand scale. This kind of damage is irreversible, only option left is heart transplant.

If you have weak heart function, the burst of adrenaline can make it skip out of beat, while blood clot can damage it even further. Heart muscle with impaired function can't cope with increase in heart rate and stroke volume, caused by stress, which can lead to arrhythmia, heart palpitations as well as heart attack.


There are several methods which can help you decrease the risk of stress induced heart attack. First of all, by reducing cholesterol levels, there is less chance from plaque forming on the artery walls. Also, by improving heart function, the cardiac muscle will handle increase in heart rate and stroke volume, more easily, when exposed to stress hormones.

You can achieve both of this through healthy diet and regular exercise. However, some herbs and supplements such as adaptogens can help, too.

When it comes to stress and heart attack, there are couple tips and techniques which can help you relax as well as improve your ability to deal with stressful situations, more easily.

The most effective way to relax, is to take some time for yourself, away from the kids, partner, family and friends and practice deep breathing for couple of minutes until you feel relaxed enough. On the other hand, we can't avoid stress in our life but we can reduce the amount of exposure to daily stress as well as our respons to it, by logical and relaxed approach to stressful situations.

However, it may take some time to get the grasp of these two.

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