Heart Health Lifestyle

Stress Is No Small Thing - How Does It Impact Your Health and HRV?

We live in an ever-changing world with many stressful moments. The constant pressure of big and small stresses can lead to symptoms such as depression, anxiety disorder or chronic stress. The World Health Organization has declared stress as the health epidemic of the 21st century. And while our bodies are still hardwired to respond to it in the same way they did millennia ago, the constant pressure of modern life can take a serious toll on our physical and mental health. One of the ways that stress manifests itself is through heart rate variability (HRV). Let’s take a closer look!

What is stress?

When your heart races, your palms get sweaty, and your muscles tense up. We all know that feeling of being stressed out. But what is stress, itself? 
Stress is our body's response to any demand or threat. When you perceive a threat, your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) kicks into gear. Being activated, it releases hormones like epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol into our bloodstream. 
  • Adrenaline increases the heart rate and raises blood pressure.
  • Norepinephrine releases glucose into the bloodstream and increases blood flow to the muscles.
  • Cortisol fills the bloodstream with glucose and narrows the arteries.
This "fight-or-flight" response is a natural survival instinct that has served us well throughout evolution.
Let's take a closer look at how stress otherwise affects our health. 

Stress affects our immune system, making us more susceptible to colds and other illnesses. It can cause psychological problems and exacerbate conditions like anxiety and depression, risk factors for heart disease.  
Chronic stress can also lead to changes in the heart's electrical activity, which may increase the risk of arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), obesity, and diabetes. It can cause headaches, muscle tension, sleep problems, gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and memory and concentration problems. 
If you already suffer from one of these conditions, managing your stress is essential to preventing the condition from worsening. And even if you don't have a chronic disease, stress can still affect your health. Here are some tips to reduce stress: 

Make time for exercise
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and improve your overall health. It releases endorphins that make you feel good and allow you to clear your mind and focus on something other than your stressors. 

Meditation can help you learn how to control your thoughts and focus on the present moment. It can be conducive when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.  

Get more sleep
When we are stressed, our bodies need more rest to recover. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. 

Deep breathing exercises
Deep breathing exercises can help you relax by decreasing the amount of oxygen in your blood and calming your nervous system. 

Spending time with friends or family
Whether going for a walk, having a meal together, or just talking on the phone, quality time with loved ones can help reduce anxiety and promote happiness and well-being.

Monitor the stress level with Heartify 
Our app gives you access to measuring tools that allow for HRV daily monitoring as well as providing feedback about your everyday stress, tension, and energy levels. Spend up to 5 minutes to better understand your current state of wellness and be ready for new life challenges! 

You see, stress is no small thing. On the contrary, it can have severe implications for health if not managed effectively. If you are feeling overwhelmed, there are many things you can do to reduce your stress levels. High blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, headaches, sleep problems, and gastrointestinal issues are at the top of the list. Try implementing some of the tips above into your routine. You will indeed be surprised at how much better you will feel! 

​​Respectfully yours,

ATTENTION! If you are struggling to cope with stress on your own, do not hesitate to reach out for help from a mental health professional!