You often see reports about stress "causing" heart disease in the popular media. There are two separate issues - heart attack versus heart disease. Heart disease occurs over a period of time - heart attack is a specific event - often the last stage of heart disease as a person succumbs to this disease.
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack is a very specific event! A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle itself is severely reduced or stopped. The reduction or stoppage happens when one or more of the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle is blocked. This is usually caused by the buildup of plaque (deposits of fat-like substances), a process called atherosclerosis. The plaque can eventually burst, tear or rupture, creating a "snag" where a blood clot forms and blocks the artery. This leads to a heart attack.
If the blood supply is cut off for more than a few minutes, muscle cells suffer permanent injury and die. This can kill or disable someone, depending on how much heart muscle is damaged.
The medical term for heart attack is myocardial infarction. A heart attack is also sometimes called a coronary thrombosis or coronary occlusion.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease refers to conditions in your arteries and other blood vessels related to your heart. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) refers to the build of plaque in your arteries (see atherosclerosis above). In some individuals this "process" starts as early as 2 years of age. CAD can result in angina (chest pain) or heart attack or other health complications.
Several factors play an important role in heart disease including your family history, cholesterol levels, level of physical activity and smoking. Many studies suggest that anger and negative handling of stress can have a powerful effect on a person's immunity and risk of heart disease. People who hate their jobs have double the risk of dying from heart disease as compared to people who enjoy their jobs. It must be understood that the "garden variety" of stress is common for most people. It is not the "stress" that kills but how we handle it.
The bottom line - if you have anger issues or you have "unhealthy" ways of dealing with your stress levels - consider meditation and other relaxation methods.
03-18-2010 Original Publication
05-03-2014 Links updated
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