The link between anxiety and heart disorders was established a long time ago. But it's only recently that extensive studies have been carried out to discover if anxiety has an impact on the heart.
What the studies found was, a few people who had been diagnosed with some form of heart problems indeed suffered from chronic anxiety.
What happens when stress levels go up?
A little amount of anxiety is alright for the body because it pushes you to take action. And, your body is really well-equipped to deal with one-off incidents of nerves and anxiety. But, anxiety today has become a constant problem. Worries regarding finances, family, jobs and uncertainty about the future keep bothering you. When you are anxious, your brain orders the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenal that prepare the body for a flight or fight response.
When these hormones flood the body, your heart beat spikes, blood pressure goes up and all your muscles become tense. When the threat that prompted the reaction disappears, the stress hormones recede. As a result, your heart rate stabilizes, blood pressure returns to its normal level and the muscles can relax. Or in other words, your body can once again attain its normal state. But, for people who are constantly in a state of anxiety, there is always an influx of stress hormones in their bodies that does not allow them to relax.
Psychological stressors prompt a physical reaction. And if this goes on for too long, it will have an adverse effect on different organs of the body, most of all on the heart.
How exactly does anxiety harm the heart?
The stress hormones force the heart to beat faster than it usually does. It has to pump blood at a rapid pace to send it to regions of the body that are instrumental to the fight and flight response like the limbs. This could lead to tachycardia or rapid heartbeat. And, this wears out the muscles of the heart and makes it more prone to heart attack, heart failure and stroke. That is why it is vital to consult a doctor if you feel that you cannot handle elevated levels of stress on your own.