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Is the Development of Calcification in Blood Vessels A Result of Stress?

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Posted September 18, 2018

Regarding overall health, there is probably no symptom more readily linked to prevailing conditions and illnesses than stress. The question we should be asking, however, is whether or not naming stress as a cause is accurate.

Blood cells. Image credit: qimono via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

There is no doubt that stress can be a contributor to all kinds of health problems, but there is a difference between contribution and cause. As of now, science has yet to discover a direct link between stress and the onset of high blood pressure, but stress can, and does, have a negative impact on a body already compromised by hypertension. Even temporary spikes can cause damage to the heart, blood vessels kidneys with symptoms and effects that emulate those linked to high blood pressure.

Risk Factors For Calcification and Arteriosclerosis

While science has not yet identified a direct cause for calcification of blood vessels, a number of risk factors that lead to it have. Those risk factors can be divided into two distinct categories: those that are preventable and those that are not. Some preventable risk factors include:

– High blood pressure

– High LDL blood cholesterol levels (aka “bad” cholesterol)

– Smoking tobacco

– Sedentary lifestyle and obesity

– Diabetes

– Common Western diet (excesses of saturated fats particularly in fast or     prepared foods)

– Stress*

Risk factors that have no significant preventive measures include:

– Age

– Being a man or postmenopausal woman

– Genetic predisposition to cardiopulmonary conditions

*Increased heart rate and narrowing of blood vessels are two common results of stress. Calcified blood vessels do not work efficiently in tandem with all other related systems which can cause both immediate and long-term problems when left untreated.

Stress And Its Effects On Your Cardiopulmonary System

Atherosclerosis diagram. Image credit: NIH/NHLBI, Public Domain

Stress is a frequent contributor to various cardiopulmonary disorders including high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, and even angina in extreme circumstances. It puts a strain on all primary functions including your respiratory system which, in turn, can lead to reduced pulmonary function.

Stress is a major contributing factor to the effects of heart disease. It increases heart rate which makes it harder for arteries already hardened by blood vessel calcification to function correctly. The results of stress can trigger the onset of cardiac arrest on a pulmonary system that is already overtaxed by calcification and will often be cited as contributors in a patient’s lab report after a thorough examination and stress test.

Stress And High Blood Pressure

Even though stress only causes temporary spikes in blood pressure, those momentary spikes can contribute to the same kinds of situations already listed above. It is unclear if stress is a cause of long-term hypertension, but frequent spikes due to stress can emulate its effects and cause more damage to vital systems over time.

Image credit: pxhere.com, CC0 Public Domain

Reducing Stress On Your Cardiovascular System

While it is impossible to remove every stressor from life that can contribute to spikes in hypertension and other heart-related conditions, many habits and behaviors can be modified to reduce risk. It is also important to understand that not all stressors are mental. Some are physical and can be altered or removed as a means of reducing stress on the body. Here are just a few:

– Altering and Reversing Calcium Buildup – Science has identified the cause for calcium buildup to be the cause of accumulation of white blood cells or macrophages that build up inside artery walls. New therapies are being developed and tested with the significant positive result.

– Changes in Diet – Foods high in cholesterol have long been known to be contributors in hardening of the arteries. Another way to reverse the effects of calcification is to adopt a diet that includes foods that are low in cholesterol and processed sugars. Reducing the intake of simple carbohydrates from other sources like grains and sweets can also make a difference.

– Pharmaceutical Therapies – If your cholesterol is high, the condition should be monitored by your doctor. If changes to diet alone do not have a measurable effect, it might be necessary to treat with an appropriate prescription drug or holistic remedy as recommended by a licensed, qualified medical professional.

– Quitting Smoking – If you smoke, you are putting stress on most major systems, especially your respiratory and pulmonary systems. Stresses related to smoking can have life-threatening effects long before complications like heart disease, cancer, or lung disease emerge.

Effective Stress-Management Strategies

To counter the effects of stress on vital systems, most physicians will recommend trying carious stress-reducing activities. Here are a few words of advice from doctors and other medical professionals that can aid in the overall healing and recovery process:

#1: Simplify Your Life

If you always feel rushed or are still under pressure to complete tasks or meet deadlines, it’s time to take a look at all the activities that make up your day. There are likely things on your calendar or to-do list that can be eliminated. There are plenty of things that demand time but don’t contribute positively to your day. If it isn’t essential, try to remove it from the equation.

#2: Breathe

The simple act of consciously breathing – in through the nose, and out the mouth – can reduce stress and help your vital systems function more efficiently. Aside from delivering more oxygen to the blood, slow, deliberate breathing can aid in relaxation. Yoga and meditation are great disciplines that can help you develop proper breathing techniques and increase your mental focus at the same time.

#3: Develop Healthy Habits

Commit to making positive changes to your diet. Start using your gym membership. Walk, hike, or ride a bike regularly. Proper diet and regular exercise can keep stress at bay and will always contribute to better overall health. You might also consider changing your sleep schedule to ensure that your body gets the rest it needs to get and stay well.

#4: Maintain a Healthy Perspective

Try to focus on the things in life that make you feel happy or satisfied. The right attitude about life, in general, is a huge stress reducer. If you need to, seek professional help in this arena. In some ways, it can be even more critical to managing your emotional health than it is to start cutting carbs merely.

Is Stress the Cause?

The short answer to the question of whether or not stress can cause illnesses like calcification of blood vessels is no. There is currently no scientific data to show it as an actual cause. Stress is, however, a significant contributor to other conditions that can trigger more severe responses from the body. Patients who suffer from hardening of the arteries and other related conditions are at particular risk of long-term illness or death if stress goes untreated.

While stress may not be the cause of illnesses like calcification of the blood vessels, it is a significant contributor to complications that result from them. With that in mind, it is essential to consider its effects and take necessary actions to lessen those effects through a combination of adequate medical treatment and responsible preventive measures.

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