Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Can Stress Give You A Heart Attack?
I ask my clients all the time, " What are the side effects of being you?", and the majority of them
look at me like I have two heads. So I re-frame the question and ask: " If an alien wanted to take
over your body for the day, what emotions would they experience?"
Well, that brought a whole host of answers, with the top five being : Anger, Resentment, Frustration,
Hurt, and Exhaustion. I didn't see a lot of love, joy, happiness, and compassion.
The reason this is so important, is because researchers at Duke University did a study in 2004
that showed people who were otherwise considered healthy, but prone to anger, hostility,
and experienced high levels of stress, produced a higher level of a substance that promotes
cardiovascular disease and stroke.
This substance is called C-Reactive Protein. It's produced by the liver in response to inflammation,
and inflammation has recently been shown to underlie the plaque that forms inside arteries as they clog.
Duke was one of the first universities to link this combination of negative psychological responses
with higher levels of CRP in people without traditional risk factors for heart disease.
People with traditional risk factors for heart disease like obesity, smoking, diabetes, hypertension,
high cholesterol and a sedentary lifestyle, are more likely to have elevated levels of CRP, however,
a large number of individuals without any identifiable causation , but had anger issues, had levels
two to three times higher than someone who described themselves as laid back or easy going.
Blood samples were taken from 121 otherwise healthy individuals with no known history or pre existing
condition of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or smoking. They were analyzed and
researcher found that those who displayed negative responses were producing much higher levels
of CRP than their counterparts. Dr. Suarez of Duke who conducted the study stated: " Our findings
suggest that the development of heart disease may also be due to psychological attributes that
activate the inflammatory process. And as we all know, most diseases in the body start out as minor
So next time you get your blood checked, if you are concerned, you might want to consider asking your doctor to check your CRP levels as well. Ask for the more sensitive HS-CRP test, which is more accurate in determining a persons risk factor for heart disease.
The bottom line is this. We are responsible for our thoughts, feelings, and emotions and as Dr. Lissa
Rankin said " We write our own prescription". That means we are able to control what chemicals
we produce, positively or negatively, and our body will react accordingly. Take control of your
emotions, find tools like deep breathing, taking a walk, or even just begin to focus on what is right
in front of you, and name it. That will get you back into the moment, and not allow your mind to
go into a state of high stress. As silly as simple as that sounds, it works because it brings you back into the NOW.
You are the chemist of your body, so mix up some love, joy, and happiness and your body will
thank you for it.
Until next time~
Dr. Linda McCarthy Ph.D