Are There Different Types Of Stress And Do These Affect The Heart Differently?

Dr. Williams answers the question: 'Heart Impacts Of Different Stresses?'

— -- Question: Are there different types of stress and do these affect the heart differently?

Answer: There are different types of stress. There's stress that has something to do with what's happening to you, outside, in the environment. It can be a job that's too demanding, it can be a job that doesn't reward you, it could be stressful life events, it could be a traffic jam that won't let you get to where you need to go on time, anything that happens to you. It can also be a lack of supportive social ties with family and friends that can stress you. These are things that happen outside you that stress you.

Unfortunately, some of us have the capacity to manufacture our own stress. This is those of us who have a hostile personality type that makes us more sensitive to the things that are happening out there in our environment. We're always on our guard for somebody screwing up, somebody going too slowly, somebody being selfish. And this causes us to react, to have this frustration and anger reaction to very low level stressors out there, that people who don't have this personality type are more or less immune to.

So there are two sources of stress: outside and then from inside your head. And both of them act through the same common pathway to damage your heart. They cause you to engage in unhealthy behaviors, like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, eating too much. One study found that people who had high hostility scores consume, on average, 600 more calories a day than those with low hostility scores, which probably accounts for the fact that people with high hostility levels have a bigger waist and also more prone to Type 2 diabetes.

So, if you can learn to manage these stresses better, you can be more resistant both to what's going on outside you, as well as to protect yourself against your own personality causing you to be more sensitive.

But the final common pathway is through these stress hormones that cause your body systems, your platelets to be stickier and more likely to clot. Your metabolic system to be more likely to have a higher glucose and higher lipid levels. Your inflammatory system to be more inflamed. And your cardiovascular system to be showing these blood pressure and heart rate surges, which are damaging your blood vessels and your heart.

So, stress gets inside the body, but once it does, the pathway is always the same to your heart.

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