How Stress Affects YOU
When you are in a stressful situation the body responds with the...
- The sympathetic nervous system stimulates receptors in the heart that make it beat faster and harder, preparing you to fight or run away. This can cause the coronary arteries to constrict.
- The brain causes other organs such as the adrenal glands to secrete stress hormones such as adrenaline, and steroids such as cortisol, which circulate in the blood until they reach the heart.
A series of physiological reactions occurs:
- The muscles contract, helping to fortify the body's armor to help protect it from injury.
- The metabolism speeds up the heart rate and the amount of blood pumped with each beat increases.
- Breathing increases, providing more oxygen, to do battle or run from the danger.
- The digestive system shuts down, diverting energy to the muscles that are needed in order to run.
- Arteries in our arms and legs constrict so that less blood will be lost if you become wounded.
- Blood clots more quickly so as not to lose blood due to injury.
Chronic stress can cause:
- Tension, anxiety and/or depression
- More blood clots in the arteries which reduce blood flow to the heart.
- Arteries in the heart to constrict which can cause spasms. When a coronary artery goes into spasm it can injure the lining of the artery leading to cholesterol deposits and plaque build-up.
- High blood pressure
- Weakened nervous and immune system
(Adapted from Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease.Random House, 1990.)