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How Stress And Anxiety Affects The Heart?

How Stress And Anxiety Affects The Heart?

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but it can have negative impacts on both our physical and mental health. When it comes to heart health, stress is a major factor that can contribute to the development of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Pharmacist and nutritionist Isabelle Nunn (MPHARM, Dip NT) discusses the ways in which stress impacts the body and the brain, as well as the link between anxiety and heart health.

The impact of stress on the body and brain

When we experience stress, our body's "fight or flight" response is triggered, which releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones increase our heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, preparing the body for action. While this response can be helpful, in extreme situations chronic stress can lead to long-term damage to the body and brain. Learn more in the latest research on the impact of stress .

Stress can lead to inflammation of our body's cells, which can contribute to the development of a variety of health problems from poor gut health to depression.

The link between anxiety and heart health

Anxiety and a weak heart, or worse still heart failure, can often be mistaken for each other, as they can have similar symptoms, such as shortness of breath and chest pain. While anxiety itself does not cause heart failure, it puts a strain on the heart, causing blood vessels to constrict and your heart rate to race, which can trigger a heart attack. Learn more about the warning signs of a heart attack.

Lifestyle tips for managing stress naturally 

While we all find individual ways of managing our anxiety and stress levels, there are a number of well studied ways to reduce stress naturally, including:

  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Connecting with nature
  • Therapy
  • Deep belly breathing

    According to Dr K Rosa, regularly engaging in 'deep belly breathing' can help us convert a ‘fight or flight response’ into a relaxation response that is beneficial to our health.

    Top nutrition tips for managing stress naturally 

    Nutrition can greatly impact the way we respond to those anxious feelings and how we can better deal with stress and reduce the burden on the heart. Our response to stress is as much about our gut health as it is our mental health, because the gut and brain are intrinsically connected. Learn more in 'Why your gut is your second brain'.

    Some of the foods that are great for your heart health include:

    • Fatty fish like mackerel that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids and support a healthy mood and heart.
    • Cocoa-rich products, brightly coloured fruits and vegetables which are abundant in plant polyphenols and antioxidants.
    • Spices such as Turmeric which contain Curcuminoids, a biologically active compound that can that help reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation can be the root cause of heart disease and can make anxiety worse.

      Outrageously good, heart healthy meals can also be found in our recipe section, such as...

      • Rainbow salad, packed with nutrients, including heart loving antioxidants, pomegranates and Omega-3 mighty pumpkin seeds.

      • Fresh pesto pasta with toasted cashews, abundant in active botanical compounds from the garlic, olive oil and basil.
      • Black bean with avocado tacos packed with vegan protein, fibre and healthy fats.

      Heart health supplements

      Several botanicals and clinically studied nutrients have shown to support heart health, through the different pathways they work on.

      Ashwagandha KSM-66®

      Used for over centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha is a herb shown to induce a state of calm. Clinically proven to help manage feelings of anxiety, the form of Ashwagandha called Ashwagandha KSM-66® has been shown to help balance and lower cortisol levels. This in turns promotes a calm sense of wellbeing and indirectly helps the body produce melatonin, our sleep hormone. For those who find it hard to unwind and struggle to have a deep, restorative sleep, evidence shows botanicals like Ashwagandha can help.

      Stay Calm™

      Stay Calm is our acclaimed formula including Ashwagandha KSM-66®, along with other adaptogens including Schisandra, Cordyceps and Rhodiola, as well as vital amino-acids, shown to provide relief from symptoms of anxiety and stress in 81% of people. Research also shows people who take Stay Calm™ experience improvements in mood, sleep and cognitive focus. You may also enjoy reading 'Why is everyone talking about Schisandra'.