Stress And Cholesterol Link
There is compelling evidence that your level of stress can cause an increase in bad cholesterol indirectly. For example, one study found that stress is positively linked to having less healthy dietary habits, a higher body weight, and a less healthy diet, all of which are known risk factors for high cholesterol. This was found to be especially true in men.
Another study that focused on over 90,000 people found that those who self-reported being more stressed at work had a greater chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol. This may be because the body releases a hormone called cortisol in response to stress. High levels of cortisol from long-term stress may be the mechanism behind how stress can increase cholesterol. Adrenaline may also be released, and these hormones can trigger a fight or flight response to deal with the stress. This response will then trigger triglycerides, which can boost bad cholesterol.
Regardless of the physical reasons why stress can impact cholesterol, multiple studies show a positive correlation between high stress and high cholesterol. While there are other factors that can contribute to high cholesterol, it seems that stress can be one, too.
Other Effects Of Stress On The Heart
Stress can also have other effects on the body, some of which can be dangerous.
The researchers took measurements of heart ischemia from 310 people with stable CHD. When they faced mental stress, nearly 44 percent of the participants showed signs of heart ischemia.
The participants were more at risk of developing mental stress-related ischemia than exercise-related ischemia, the results showed.
The authors of the research also discussed how sex, marriage, and living arrangements could influence heart problems. They call for more research into these factors.
How The Body Reacts To Stress Causes High Cholesterol Levels
Another study found that people who suffer from high levels of stress have higher bad cholesterol due to the high levels of triglycerides. The triglycerides are the components that encourage the boost of bad cholesterol levels, causing major health problems. It doesnt matter what your diet is like, although the unhealthier diet will put you more at risk.
The study researchers considered there reasons for the higher triglycerides. While the exact reason isnt known, the theory is that it is due to the stress hormone cortisol. This is common is people who suffer long term stress, and leads to the release of adrenaline in the body.
Adrenaline is the bodys flight or fight response and helps to deal with the stress levels. It pushes people into making decisions and keeps them alert and active when they desperately need to be. Many people in trauma incidents report that they dont know how they kept going. The adrenaline pushed them forward until they were given a chance to relax. That was when their bodies shut down, and they had the chance to allow the trauma to affect them.
Adrenaline can certainly have benefits, but it causes the increase in triglycerides. This then triggers the high levels of bad cholesterol, which can later affect the body in other ways.
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Lack Of Physical Activity: A Sedentary Lifestyle
Having no physical activity or exercise doubles the risk of obesity and significantly increases your chances of developing high levels of LDL and total cholesterol. It will also lower your HDL levels.
Physical inactivity also increases your risk of diabetes, which again can increase your cholesterol.
Exercising every day for about 30 minutes is a must as it gives you tremendous benefits, which extend to almost all systems of your body. Exercise reduces your LDL and increases HDL.
What Kind Of Research Was This
This was a cross-sectional study that explored whether there is a link between job stress and abnormal levels of fats in the blood.
Some studies have found a link between job stress and an increased risk of coronary disease. There are various theories about how this link might come about for example, by stress increasing the likelihood of unhealthy habits such as smoking.
Some studies have also suggested that stress could directly influence levels of lipids in the blood by possibly adversely affecting the body’s metabolism. However, these studies have been small and in selected populations, and have had mixed results.
In the current study, researchers wanted to assess stress and lipid levels in a large representative sample of workers. As this study is cross-sectional, both stress and lipid levels were assessed at the same time. This means the study cannot establish whether participants’ lipid levels were directly influenced by their stress levels.
The Fight Or Flight Response In Stress
For all its unpleasant sensations, from sweaty palms to a pounding heart, fear is the body’s way of protecting itself against danger. In prehistoric times, the threat may have been a hungry bear. Today, it’s more likely to be a demanding boss.
When this happens, the body jumps into action. The hypothalamus, a gland located near the brain stem, triggers the release of two hormonesadrenaline and cortisolthat speed up the heart, stimulate the release of energy and increase blood flow to the brain. The body is preparing itself to either stay and fight or run.
The same chemical reaction occurs whether the threat is immediate physical harm or the potential loss of income and prestige.
The Personality Factor In Stress
Each person has a different physiological reaction to stress. Some research suggests that an individual’s personality typeclassified by the letters A, B, C, D, and Ecan predict that response. Types A and D are high-stress personalities. Those with Type A personality are typically time-oriented, focused and detail-oriented. People with type D personality are known for repressing their feelings.
Individuals who have either a type A or D personality seem especially sensitive to stress hormones. This means that their heart rates increase, arteries restrict and sugars are released into the bloodstream at higher rates than those with more relaxed personality types.
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Stress Changes Your Behavior
Experiencing too much stress over a long period of time can wreak havoc on your body and put you at an elevated risk for heart disease and having a heart attack as you age. Theres more to how stress impacts your heart and your general health, though.
When youre stressed out, youre not nearly as likely to get up and exercise in the morning. Youre going to hit the snooze button and try to catch a few more winks instead. The same goes for trying to hit the gym at the end of a 15-hour day or after a fight with your partner.
The amount of stress youre under also plays a major role in lifestyle choices. People who are under a great deal of stress tend to choose comfort foods to eat instead of picking healthy options. Isnt it more likely that you could binge on ice cream when youre stressed out than when youre happy and in a great mood?
Adults who consume alcohol are also susceptible to drinking more when theyre under a lot of stress. Those extra calories can impact your weight, not to mention the damage too much alcohol can do to other parts of your body like your liver.
Individuals who smoke or who have recently quit are also more likely to light up when under stress.
The Cardiovascular Reactivity Theory
Researchers have found that some peoples cardiovascular system reacts more than others in response to stress. For example, some peoples blood pressure rises more than others at stressful times.
The cardiovascular reactivity hypothesis suggests that stress may increase the risk of heart disease in certain people. Often, a person with high cholesterol levels is already at a higher risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack. Stress could trigger such an event.
When people have high cholesterol, the walls of their arteries experience changes. Sometimes, these changes make the arteries less elastic, so the blood vessels are less able to open up in response to stress.
Scientists have a reasonable understanding of the indirect effects of stress on cholesterol. For example, they know that when a person faces stress, they may be more likely to engage in certain behaviors that can increase or decrease cholesterol levels.
Factors that may indirectly cause cholesterol to rise include:
Dietary changes: In the short term, a person experiencing stress may not want to eat. In the long-term, however, the hormonal impact of stress can increase a persons appetite.
Alcohol and tobacco: A person experiencing stress may increase their alcohol intake, and they may smoke more, or return to smoking after quitting.
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How High Cholesterol May Be A Sign Of Imbalanced Hormones
Cholesterol is the building block of hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol , and aldosterone . Cholesterol is comprised of a number of particles that each serve a function such as: -LDL .-HDL .-Triglycerides . There are a few more cholesterol markers such as particle sizes and the ratio, but these are the main ones.
Healthy cholesterol levels are commonly seen in premenopausal women as estrogen is in proper balance, however, LDL tends to increase and HDL tends to decrease upon peri/menopausal women due to estrogen decline. Estrogen helps blood vessels expand and contract, and cleans up free radicals that can damage arteries and other tissues. However, too much can be a good thing as elevated estrogen can hinder thyroid function leading to hypothyroid, where cholesterol levels climb as metabolism slows. In addition, constipation allows for toxins and estrogens to recirculate, creating additional stress on the body . Progesterone helps balance the effects of estrogen, and helps improve cholesterol markers like HDL and LDL, but actual progesterone therapy can raise triglycerides.
In men, a healthy testosterone level is the main player to help keep optimal cholesterol numbers and mitigate risk actors for cardiovascular disease like stroke and heart attack, but testosterone replacement therapy in the case of low testosterone may actually have the opposite effect . In other words, too high or too low is no bueno.
In the meantime, start with these:
Stress Hormones And Cholesterol
Both adrenaline and cortisol trigger the production of cholesterol, which is the waxy, fatty substance the liver makes to provide the body with energy and repair damaged cells. The problem is that too much cholesterol can clog the arteries and eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke.
One theory is that the stress hormones function this way to provide fuel for a potential fight or flight situation. But if this energy is not usedas with modern-day stressors that don’t require an actual physical fight or escapeit is gradually accumulated as fat tissue, somewhere in the body.
Cortisol has the additional effect of creating more sugar, the body’s short-term energy source.
In recurrent stressful situations, sugars are repeatedly unused and are eventually converted into triglycerides or other fatty acids. Research has also indicated that these fatty deposits are more likely to end up in the abdomen. And those with more abdominal fat are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
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Lifestyle Changes To Lower Cholesterol
Heart-healthy lifestyle changes that can help you lower or control your cholesterol include:
- Heart-healthy eating. A heart-healthy eating plan limits the amount of saturated and trans fats that you eat. It recommends that you eat and drink only enough calories to stay at a healthy weight and avoid weight gain. It encourages you to choose a variety of nutritious foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. Examples of eating plans that can lower your cholesterol include the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet and the DASH eating plan.
- Weight Management. If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your LDL cholesterol. This is especially important for people with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that includes high triglyceride levels, low HDL cholesterol levels, and being overweight with a large waist measurement .
- Physical Activity. Everyone should get regular physical activity .
- Managing stress. Research has shown that chronic stress can sometimes raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol.
- Quitting smoking.Quitting smoking can raise your HDL cholesterol. Since HDL helps to remove LDL cholesterol from your arteries, having more HDL can help to lower your LDL cholesterol.
What Did The Research Involve
The study involved workers covered by the Ibermutuamur insurance company who had yearly medical check-ups. More than 430,000 participants were recruited between 2005 and 2007, and a study questionnaire was sent out to more than 100,000 randomly selected individuals. Completed questionnaires were returned by 91,593 of these people.
The questionnaire included the question, “During the last year, have you frequently felt that you cannot cope with your usual job?”. Participants who answered “yes” were considered to have job stress.
The questionnaire also included 11 questions relating to anxiety and depression symptoms, such as “Have you felt keyed up, on edge?” and “Have you had difficulty relaxing?”.
The researchers took fasting blood samples from participants and measured levels of total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol , and levels of a type of lipid called triglycerides. The levels of so-called “bad” cholesterol were calculated based on these measurements.
Participants were classed as having abnormal lipid levels based on pre-specified levels if they reported taking lipid-lowering medication or had been diagnosed as having abnormal lipid levels.
The researchers then looked at whether abnormal lipid levels are linked to job stress. They took into account the following confounders:
- type of job
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Why Should I Lower My Cholesterol
Evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol can increase the risk of:
- narrowing of the arteries
- transient ischaemic attack often known as a “mini stroke”
- peripheral arterial disease
This is because cholesterol can build up in the artery wall, restricting the blood flow to your heart, brain and the rest of your body. It also increases the risk of a blood clot developing somewhere in your body.
Your risk of developing coronary heart disease also rises as your blood’s cholesterol level increases. This can cause pain in your chest or arm during stress or physical activity .
Lessen The Intensity Of Your Reaction To Stress
A study conducted by University of College London researches found that âindividuals with larger initial stress responses had substantially greater rises in cholesterol than those with small stress responses.â In fact, those in the top third of stress responders were three times more likely to have high cholesterol. Based on this study, researchers concluded, âIt appears that a person’s reaction to stress is one mechanism through which higher lipid levels may develop.â
Clearly, decreasing your reaction to stress will increase your health. Because stress is a key factor affecting your health on multiple levels, it is essential to find ways to manage stress in the best way possible. This will help reduce your risk of high cholesterol, which leads to greater risk of heart disease.
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Common And Unknown Reasons That Cause High Cholesterol Levels
There are various causes that can raise your blood cholesterol levels. The main cause that is difficult to prevent and which is rare includes the genetic cause, which gives rise to familial hypercholesterolemia. Other major ones are the environmental causes that include poor dietary choices, a physically inactive lifestyle, and obesity.
The most common cause of high cholesterol is eating an unhealthy diet. Unhealthy dietary choices include choosing foods that consist of saturated fats found in animal products and trans fats present in foods that are commercially packed such as baked cookies, doughnuts, and crackers, among others.
Some foods contain an extremely high amount of cholesterol and they can cause blood levels to rise very high. Organ meat is one, but the brain is the highest provider.
For example, a single 140 g serving of pork brains in milk gravy that is readily available can contain 3500 milligrams of cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends healthy adults get no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day.
Looking at the recommended amount and the enormous content in such foods, eating too much of such foods can cause a sudden rise in your cholesterol levels.
But high cholesterol is not just about an unhealthy diet. There are other nondietary causes that can raise your serum cholesterol levels. Some are major while some tend to be almost hidden from the general population and unknown.
Many Cardiologists Say Stress Is An Underrecognized Factor Contributing To High Cholesterol
Christopher Edginton was taking medication and trying to improve his diet when his cholesterol shot up anyway four years ago.
His doctor suggested a new approach. He said youve got to get rid of some things youre doing, some of the stresses in your life, recalls Mr. Edginton, a professor at the University of Northern Iowa who regularly traveled internationally and had so many job titles that he had a four-sided folding business card.
Mr. Edginton heeded the doctors advice. Now 69 years old, Mr. Edginton is down to one teaching job and some scaled-down responsibilities in professional organizations. His level of so-called bad cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein , has dropped to 62 milligrams per deciliter from 121 mg/dL in 2012.
Christopher Edginton, an academic and professional leader in the field of parks and recreation, reduced his work-related stress after his cholesterol shot up. In his profession, he was surrounded by exercise and diet experts, he says, but I was so deeply immersed in my work I didnt pay attention to them.
Stress will make your cholesterol go up, says Stephen Kopecky, a preventive cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who is treating Mr. Edginton. Without a doubt, that has been underrecognized.
The study published in the journal Circulation in 1958, is nearly six decades old but Dr. Kopecky says he continues to bring it up because we can all relate to paying taxes.
Doctors Tips for Stress
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