Typically, we think of work, finances, or relationships when it comes to stress. But the list is much bigger and broader than this. Lack of sleep, dieting, skipping meals, and winning the lottery are also stressful!
Why? Because all of these situations signal your body to produce cortisol, one of your stress hormones.
This is helpful up to a point (because it helps us get our to-do lists done), but when our adrenals are required to constantly crank out cortisol, they eventually become impaired in their ability to respond. The resulting adrenal imbalance not only zaps your mojo in a big way, but also affects your body’s ability to produce and balance other feel-good hormones like DHEA, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. This throws your hormone symphony way off-key! But there’s more to it than hormones.
The Negative Effects of Stress on Your Heart
When stress becomes a constant companion it can cause some serious negative consequences on your heart. Stress increases the plaque rate and it can accumulate in the arteries. It makes platelets sticky and prone to forming clots that can block these arteries. Stress can also cause arteries to constrict, starving the heart of nourishing blood and triggering chest pain or a heart attack.
Women are particularly vulnerable to the impact of stress on the heart – sorry ladies! That’s why it’s so important that women with heart disease (or its risk factors) should recognize stress and learn how to cope with it in a healthy manner.
Heart Palpitations in Women
Stress can also cause heart palpitations….an especially alarming symptom that can arise in perimenopause. Cortisol speeds up the heart rate. If you couple that with low progesterone, you may find yourself lying in bed with your heart feeling like it’s beating out of your chest. This has sent many perimenopausal women to the ER only to be told everything is “fine”.
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How to Cope with Stress in Midlife
What works for one person may not help another at all, but here are some stress management ideas to get you started:
- Biofeedback. (This technique teaches you to control your body’s reaction by changing your thoughts and emotions.)
- Breathing exercises.
- Autogenic training. (This practice involves speaking or thinking verbal cues to different parts of your body.)
- Progressive muscle relaxation.
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction.
- Self-coaching (this technique helps challenge unhelpful thought patterns).
For best effect, these techniques should be supported by other good health behaviors like getting enough sleep, eating well, moving in ways that feel like love to your body and incorporating pleasure into your daily routine.
Whatever stress management techniques you choose, it’s important that they become a daily practice. The good news is, when addressed in time with proper support, you can protect your heart (and the rest of your body) by reversing the damaging effects of chronic stress.
Dr. Anna Garrett is a menopause expert and Doctor of Pharmacy. She helps women who are struggling with symptoms of perimenopause and menopause find natural hormone balancing solutions so they can rock their mojo through midlife and beyond. Dr. Anna is the author of Perimenopause: The Savvy Sister’s Guide to Hormone Harmony. Order your copy at www.perimenopausebook.com.
Dr. Anna is available for 1-1 consultations. Find out more at www.drannagarrett.com/lets-