Stress can be deadly, as it increases the risk of a heart attack. A study found that even perceiving stress can lead to cardiovascular diseases in the long term.

A study in Sweden involving siblings showed that people diagnosed with stress-related disorders such as acute stress or post-traumatic stress disorder have had higher rates of heart problems compared to their siblings.

About 137,000 people with stress-related disorders were compared to around 171,000 of their brothers and sisters who had similar upbringings and genes but without anxiety disorder.

The study disclosed that the risk of having cardiovascular events increase by 60 percent within the first year of being diagnosed with stress-related disorders.

The research results are consistent with other previous studies linking depression, anxiety, and stress to higher risks of cardiovascular diseases such as cardiac arrests and blood clots. It also states that the link between stress-related disorders and cardiovascular diseases also seemed particularly strong in cases of early onset diseases or for people below the age of 50.

Fight Or Flight?

Who doesn't live with stress? The demands of work, school, and relationships sometimes exceeds the ability of people to cope. In this fast-paced life and environment, experiencing stress almost became normal.

Scientists say the difference lies on how people respond to stress — the fight-or-flight perception. An expert said the problem comes when people start to experience stress response activations even without an imminent threat.

"When people have stress disorders, these systems are being activated at all the wrong times," said Simon Bacon of Concordia University.

With PTSD, for example, Bacon said that a person can get very exaggerated stress responses just thinking about something that happened. These repeated responses to stress are what contributes to inflammation, which can result to atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.

Dr. Ernesto Schiffrin, a physician and professor of medicine at McGill University, advises his patients to eat healthy, exercise, spend time in nature, maintain a good attitude, and try to have good relationships.

Extreme stress can take a severe toll on a person's overall health and well-being. It can affect not only the cardiovascular system but also the immune, neuroendocrine, and central nervous systems. At times, it can also lead to physical, mental, and emotional breakdown.

How To Manage Stress

Learning how to manage and reduce stress is important. The American Psychological Association suggests these five tips on how to manage stress:

  • Take a break from the stressor
  • Exercise
  • Smile and laugh
  • Get social support
  • Meditate

These above-mentioned tips are just a few of positive and healthy ways to manage stress as it occurs. Performing them may help reduce the negative health consequences of stress.

The study is published in the BMJ journal.

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