Your Feelings Count When It Comes to Affairs of the Heart

Posted by on Jan 30, 2014

Your Feelings Count When It Comes to Affairs of the Heart

You have probably heard of the main risk factors for heart disease: smoking, diabetes, family history and high blood pressure and cholesterol. Many people may not be as aware that emotions can also play a role in whether or not we succumb to a heart attack.

A growing body of evidence suggests that chronic anger, anxiety and depression can be deadly to those with coronary artery disease. Heart patients who frequently blow-up or suffer from depression increase their chances of having a heart attack. In one study loneliness led to a death rate of 50 percent, compared to a rate of 17 percent in those who got the social support they needed.

These findings are not confined to those who already have heart disease. In a recent study from Duke University, apparently healthy people whose test scores reflected low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating, low motivation or despair had a 70 percent greater risk of heart attack.

Although no one knows exactly why this link occurs between temperament and heart disease, scientists have some ideas. When we’re under stress, our bodies respond with the “fight or flight” reaction. Levels of the stress-hormone adrenaline increase, blood pressure climbs and our pulse rate may skyrocket. These changes increase the oxygen supply to vital parts of the body. But they also increase the work-load on the heart and may sometimes trigger arrhythmias, or irregular heart beats.

So whether you’re hot-headed or shy, you needn’t worry yourself to death. The key is to acknowledge your feelings and use them wisely for solving problems. Here are some tips to take to heart:

  • When you’re angry, talk it over or discuss it later when things have calmed down. It sometimes helps to examine your feelings with a neutral person.
  • See your primary care physician if anxiety, depression or stress frequently get you down. In many cases relaxation training or counseling may help.

This post is written by Elizabeth S. Smoots, MD. Dr. Smoots’ blog is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Before adhering to any recommendations in this blog consult your healthcare provider. ©2014 Elizabeth S. Smoots, MD, LLC.
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