Health

Constantly Stressed? You May Be at Higher Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

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On days where we have a ton of errands to run or the household tasks just keep coming, stress can creep up on us at any point. Though it’s a totally normal reaction, over time, constantly feeling this way can have a negative effect on our health. New research identifies how the body’s response to a specific type of stress-related hormone may lead to heart disease and stroke — so it may be time that we learn to better manage our moods.

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A recent study published in Hormone Research in Paediatrics looked at whether a set of proteins naturally produced in the body called plasma proteomics could spot if a person was sensitive or resistant to glucocorticoids (GCs). GCs are hormones secreted by the adrenal gland in response to stress to help restore balance. One type of GC researchers focused heavily on for this study was cortisol. Essentially, they wanted to take a deep dive into the underlying chemical changes that occur in the body when a person has chronic stress.

For the study, they gave 101 healthy volunteers a 0.25 mg dose of dexamethasone at night. This drug is an artificially made GC and can slow down the release of cortisol so that your body makes less of it. The next morning, researchers looked at the participants’ blood cortisol levels to see how their body’s proteins responded to the GCs. Their major takeaway from the study was that those who were GC sensitive were linked to experiencing more blood clotting, plaque formation in the brain (which could lead to Alzheimer’s disease), and troubles with immune function. The study’s authors predicted that this could lead to developing other chronic diseases down the line.

“We speculate that if the most glucocorticoid sensitive people are exposed to excessive or prolonged stress, the resultant increased blood cell activation could predispose them to clot formation in the heart and brain, leading to heart attacks or stroke,” Nicolas C. Nicolaides, MD, PhD, said in a news release.

The overnight dexamethasone suppression test used in this study is a common way to tell whether or not a person is sensitive to GCs. Researchers note that those who are GC-sensitive and experience lots of stress are more at risk for developing serious conditions like heart attacks or stroke. However, chronic stress isn’t healthy for anyone on a constant basis. Luckily, there’s some simple ways to relax more and eliminate overwhelming feelings of worry!

Taking time to do small activities in your day like enjoy a beer, massage your scalp, and take a look at the sky have all been shown to lower stress and improve mood. Stretching while listening to music is another great way to release endorphins, which are stress-relieving hormones. Also, placing chamomile or lavender scented essential oils in a diffuser can ease anxiety thanks to the power of aromatherapy, which has been used in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine for ages.

This study should give us all an excuse to take some “me time” throughout the day. Your overall mood and long-term health can greatly benefit from making relaxation a top priority!

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