Overwhelming Stress Can Lead to Migraines, Strokes & Heart Attacks


Stress

This is a strange thing because it varies so much from person to person and each stressful situation is experienced differently. The same situation can be experienced differently on a different day too.

What makes something overwhelmingly stressful for one person and not another? Have you ever wondered why one of your friends is really laid back about stuff that freaks you out and totally stresses you out, why do they experience it differently?

Well it has a lot to do with who and how you are naturally, some people are just laid back and appear to take things in their stride while others implode as their stress levels rise. Some people really thrive on stress and need it to a degree in order to function at their best and we all need an element of stress in our lives, otherwise how would we know how to feel calm and relaxed if we were never wound up and tense.

Being stressed for too long is a horrible place to be and can seriously effect your physical and mental health and below are doe explanations of what can be going on in our bodies and minds when we allow ourselves to get overwhelmingly stressed

Migraine Attacks Increase Following Stress

Migraine sufferers who experienced reduced stress from one day to the next are at significantly increased risk of migraine onset on the subsequent day, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the Montefiore Headache Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University. Stress has long been believed to be a common headache trigger. In this study, researchers found that relaxation following heightened stress was an even more significant trigger for migraine attacks. Findings may aid in recommending preventive treatments and behavioral interventions. The study was published online today in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Migraine is a chronic condition that affects approximately 38 million Americans. To examine headache triggers, investigators at the Montefiore Headache Center and Einstein conducted a three month electronic daily diary study which captured 2,011 diary records and 110 eligible migraine attacks in 17 participants. The study compared levels of stress and reduction in stress as predictors of headache.

“This study demonstrates a striking association between reduction in perceived stress and the occurrence of migraine headaches,” said study lead author Richard Lipton, M.D., director, Montefiore Headache Center, professor and vice chair of neurology and the Edwin S. Lowe Chair in Neurology, Einstein. “Results were strongest during the first six hours where decline in stress was associated with a nearly five-fold increased risk of migraine onset. The hormone cortisol, which rises during times of stress and reduces pain, may contribute to the triggering of headache during periods of relaxation.”

Data were collected using a custom-programmed electronic diary. Each day participants recorded information about migraine attacks, two types of stress ratings and common migraine triggers, such as hours of sleep, certain foods, drinks and alcohol consumed, and menstrual cycle. They also recorded their mood each day, including feeling happy, sad, relaxed, nervous, lively and bored.

“This study highlights the importance of stress management and healthy lifestyle habits for people who live with migraine,” said Dawn Buse, Ph.D., director, Behavioral Medicine, Montefiore Headache Center, associate professor, Clinical Neurology, Einstein, and study co-author. “It is important for people to be aware of rising stress levels and attempt to relax during periods of stress rather than allowing a major build up to occur. This could include exercising or attending a yoga class or may be as simple as taking a walk or focusing on one’s breath for a few minutes.”

How Does Stress Increase Your Risk for Stroke and Heart Attack?

Scientists have shown that anger, anxiety, and depression not only affect the functioning of the heart, but also increase the risk for heart disease.

Stroke and heart attacks are the end products of progressive damage to blood vessels supplying the heart and brain, a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis progresses when there are high levels of chemicals in the body called pro-inflammatory cytokines.

It is thought that persisting stress increases the risk for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease by evoking negative emotions that, in turn, raise the levels of pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body.

Researchers have now investigated the underlying neural circuitry of this process, and report their findings in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry.

“Drawing upon the observation that many of the same brain areas involved in emotion are also involved in sensing and regulating levels of inflammation in the body, we hypothesized that brain activity linked to negative emotions – specifically efforts to regulate negative emotions – would relate to physical signs of risk for heart disease,” explained Dr. Peter Gianaros, Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and first author on the study.

To conduct the study, Gianaros and his colleagues recruited 157 healthy adult volunteers who were asked to regulate their emotional reactions to unpleasant pictures while their brain activity was measured with functional imaging. The researchers also scanned their arteries for signs of atherosclerosis to assess heart disease risk and measured levels of inflammation in the bloodstream, a major physiological risk factor for atherosclerosis and premature death by heart disease.

They found that individuals who show greater brain activation when regulating their negative emotions also exhibit elevated blood levels of interleukin-6, one of the body’s pro-inflammatory cytokines, and increased thickness of the carotid artery wall, a marker of atherosclerosis.

The inflammation levels accounted for the link between signs of atherosclerosis and brain activity patterns seen during emotion regulation. Importantly, the findings were significant even after controlling for a number of different factors, like age, gender, smoking, and other conventional heart disease risk factors.

“These new findings agree with the popular belief that emotions are connected to heart health,” said Gianaros. “We think that the mechanistic basis for this connection may lie in the functioning of brain regions important for regulating both emotion and inflammation.”

These findings may have implications for brain-based prevention and intervention efforts to improve heart health and protect against heart disease.”

“It is remarkable to see the links develop between negative emotional states, brain circuits, inflammation, and markers of poor physical health,” said Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. “As we identify the key mechanisms linking brain and body, we may be able to also break the cycle through which stress and depression impair physical health.”

If you find yourself getting stressed about things in your day, ask yourself these simple, yet quite searching questions

What If …


– What if I was wrong, and find tomorrow’s really better?
– What if things are really not as bad as they seem now?
– What if I can act to take control of situations?
– What if I can change, and start to have a different life?
– What if there is hope, despite my black mood and my feelings?
– What if decide to love and value my true self?

 Changing the way you think, perceive and feel about situations that used to stress you out can give you a whole new experience, one that allows you to think clearly, feel calmer and more in control and make better decisions, behave more sensibly and enjoy life even more.

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