Can Stress Cause a Heart Attack? Here’s What You Should Know

A middle-aged man stares at his computer screen on his messy desk while holding his glasses in his hands with a stressed-out look on his face.

Stress can cause all kinds of physical, mental, and emotional implications that can quickly lead to worry and discomfort.

While often we think of sweaty palms or the ever-faithful stomach “butterflies,” stress and worry can go far beyond random moments and take a toll on your well-being — heart included.

In fact, long-term stress can have a negative impact on your heart health, increasing your risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the tie between stress and heart attacks in more detail, including an answer to “Can stress cause a heart attack?”, an overview of the symptoms of stress, and how heart palpitations and stress can be related. Continue reading to learn more.

Symptoms of Stress

Stress can cause many physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms.

The most common symptoms of stress are broken down by type below.

Physical Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive problems
  • Changes in appetite or weight

Emotional Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed or out of control
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Forgetfulness
  • Negative thinking and self-talk

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Social withdrawal
  • Decreased interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • Procrastination
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Engaging in nervous habits such as nail biting or pacing

It is important to note that everyone experiences stress differently, and some people may experience more severe or chronic symptoms than others.

Can Stress Cause Heart Attack?

The short answer is yes.

Stress can contribute to the development of heart disease, but it is not a direct cause of a heart attack. However, stress can trigger a heart attack in some individuals, especially those with underlying heart disease.

Furthermore, when a person is under stress, they release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can increase heart rate and blood pressure. This “fight or flight” response can lead to long-term changes in the body, including inflammation and damage to blood vessels, which can increase the risk of heart disease development if it occurs frequently.

Stress can also contribute to unhealthy behaviors like smoking, overeating, and physical inactivity, all risk factors for heart disease.

Therefore, the risk of heart attack increases for those with heart disease if their stress levels are unmanaged, their lifestyle is unhealthy, or their heart issues are left untreated.

The Tie Between Stress and Heart Palpitations

Stress and heart palpitations are often closely related.

As mentioned, stress is the body’s response to a perceived threat or challenge. When you are under stress, your body releases hormones that can increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to heart palpitations.

Heart palpitations are the sensation of your heart beating faster or harder than usual. This can feel like a fluttering or pounding sensation in your chest, and it can be accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath, or chest pain.

Other symptoms accompanying heart palpitations when under stress are excessive sweating and anxiousness.

In some cases, stress-related heart palpitations may be a sign that you need to manage your stress levels, such as getting more sleep, exercising regularly, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.

In rare cases, heart palpitations can signify a more serious underlying heart condition, but they are often considered harmless.

It’s important to note that while stress can trigger heart palpitations, there are many other potential causes. Therefore, if you experience heart palpitations frequently or other symptoms accompany them, it’s essential to talk to your doctor to determine the underlying cause and the best treatment for your unique health and wellness needs.

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