Broken Hearts and Stress

Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.
Spouses dying within hours or days of each other. People who are diagnosed with a terminal illness or suddenly pass on ‘out of the blue’, shortly after retirement from a lengthy career.
Your visit to the doctor’s office, and associating ‘white coat syndrome’ sends your blood pressure increasing far beyond what it typically should be. What do all of different situations have in common? They all depict scenarios of adverse psychological stressors directly triggering some level of change in the cardiovascular state.

The concept of stress and ramifications of acute and chronic stressors throughout life is nothing new. In my medical practice, ‘stress’ is one of the most common patient complaints.
Here is what happens physiologically when the body is faced with a stressful event – the sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive (much like backing away from a approaching bear), which can weaken the heart cells, thereby increasing potential speed for blood clotting, and ultimately setting the stage for arterial rupture and probable heart attack or stroke.

Regardless of how variable the response is to stress, stressors fall into two main categories: acute vs. chronic.

Acute Stress
These events or situations that typically occur with little to no warning: sudden job change or loss, sudden death in the family, sudden relationship change such as one spouse announcing they wish to divorce, relocation, car accidents, or even natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, etc.
All these types of situations have a common thread as well – sudden emotional trauma. A number of scientific studies were conducted post-California earthquake of 1994, which looked at the dramatic increase of deaths due to cardiovascular disease, on the day of, in contrast to the days preceding the event.

Chronic Stress
Chronic stressors are not that different – they are perpetual, drawn out, and usually continue to occur without resolution: situations such job stress, marital discord, high drama news, anxiety, nicotine or alcohol intake, lengthy caregiving for a family member, unexpressed anger or unhappiness.

But there is good news here! Despite the stressor triggers, there are many approaches to dealing and coping with where you land on what medicine calls the vulnerability-resilience scale. I am a full proponent of the mind-body connection perspective and its effects on the physical body, especially in cardiovascular changes or disease.
When evaluating any patient I look at all factors, customizing a stress management protocol that is as unique to them as a fingerprint. I utilize a variety of natural health approaches, including prescription of herbal medicine, acupuncture, mind-body techniques, vitamin and mineral supplementation that address nutritional deficiencies, and even dietary and lifestyle changes.

For a sample of different ways to tackle stress head on, supporting your heart health in the process, read the remainder of the article in the Feb.17  Herbal Collective.  Written by Olena Gill, R.Ac,ND,
Download the full issue and past issues in the HerbaL Club.