Emotions and stress impact heart health.
Dr. Anthony Navone with the Marcus Daly Cardiology Clinic and the International Heart Institute of Montana will explain the relationship during a heart health class 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8.
“We’re all exposed to the risk factor of stress,” Navone said. “It is how we deal with stress that makes a difference.”
The reaction to stress can take many different forms - researchers note that sudden deaths from heart attacks increase during earthquakes and it did during the air raids of London in World War II.
Navone said the definition of “Type A” personalities comes from their use of stress. These are competitive people who are always looking for new activities. Initially, Type A personality was listed as a disorder associated with heart disease, but further studies show their risk increases because they often do not take care of themselves.
Navone said Type A personalities are more apt to be smokers and hypertensive, and less likely to exercise.
“It’s the personality or habits of that person that incorporate the more traditional risk factors,” he said. “Now it is accepted that being under stress is an independent risk factor from heart disease.”
The definition of stress has many variables including a change in routine and the feeling of not being in control of the situation.
“There are more job-related stress illnesses in individuals who don’t have control over their break, the input they can add to the company, their work schedule, the product they are making – like line work,” Navone said. “Those people have more work-related stress illness. The less control, the more stress.”
Examples he gave included traffic jams – a regular part of life in bigger cities but being caught in a rush hour or accident-related delay on Reserve Street in Missoula can be big stressors for Montanans.
“Especially if you have a deadline to keep or are going somewhere,” Navone said. “There is a difference between planned or expected problems and unexpected problems.”
Navone said the key is individual response.
“Stress is not necessarily all bad for you,” he said. “Some people can’t stand deadlines, where as some people need deadlines to become competitive and get their work done - it is the perception.”
Physically, stress can be measured by increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, sweatiness, and shortness of breath. Coping mechanisms include healthy choices like yoga, meditation, sunshine, exercise, music or non-heathy ones like smoking and drinking.
“Everyone has a different response to stress,” Navone said. “For example, a roller coaster - the ride is the same for everyone - there is no different control. Some people thrive on it, they love it, they are in the back raising their hands, cheering, and then there are those who are so fearful and it is such a horrible experience.”
The belief that stress is bad also can be harmful.
Navone said that if someone has a lot of stress but believes it is a good thing or a normal thing, the results were the same as someone without stress.
“It is perception,” he said.
Navone’s Health Education Class is for all ages, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Thursday at Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, 1200 Westwood Drive, Hamilton. Doors open at 4:45 p.m. and everyone is invited to come early to receive a blood pressure check. For more information visit online mdmh.org.