Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about stress.
What's the link between chronic stress and heart disease?
Stress sets off a chain of events. First, you have a stressful situation that's usually upsetting but not harmful. The body reacts to it by releasing a hormone, adrenaline, that temporarily causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. These physical reactions prepare you to deal with the situation by confronting it or by running away from it — the "fight or flight" response. When stress is constant (chronic), your body remains in high gear off and on for days or weeks at a time. The link between chronic or extreme stress and heart disease is not clear.
Does chronic stress cause high blood pressure?
Chronic stress has not been shown to directly cause high blood pressure, but it can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices that are associated with high blood pressure. While the exact causes of high blood pressure are unknown, contributing factors include being overweight, eating too much sodium (salt), lack of physical activity and drinking too much alcohol. Chronic stress can take a physical toll on you. It can weaken your immune system and cause uncomfortable physical symptoms like headache and stomach problems.
Can medicines help me lower my stress level?
Medicines are helpful for many things, but usually not for stress. Some people take tranquilizers to calm them down immediately, but it's far better in the long term to learn to manage your stress through relaxation or stress management techniques. Be careful not to confuse stress with anxiety. If you suffer from anxiety, speak with your doctor a treatment or management plan including whether you need medication.
>How do I know if I need a stress management class?
Stress management classes can help you learn to handle your stress, especially if you have a "Type A" personality (constantly rushing, angry, hostile or competitive) or if your stress is nonstop. Stress management classes can be found at community colleges, rehab programs, in hospitals or by calling a therapist in your community. Classes normally last for 10 to 12 weeks and offer many techniques to help you.
Last reviewed 6/2014