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The relationship between chronic stress and heart disease has been well-established in scientific research. Experiencing stress for a long period of time can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and inflammation, which in turn increase your risk of heart disease. Finding healthy ways to manage your stress levels, for example by means of exercise or meditation, can be beneficial for your health in various ways.

The effect of stress on the heart

Stress is a natural response that occurs when the body senses that there is a perceived threat or a challenge. It can have many causes, such as: 

  • A physical cause: not getting enough sleep or having an illness
  • Emotions such as worry or grief
  • A feeling that you have too many obligations or that you are under a lot of pressure

Experiencing stress for a short amount of time can actually be beneficial, as it can help you to respond quickly in emergency situations, and it can help you perform better for a short period of time. Prolonged stress however can be problematic, as it can have a severe impact on your overall health. 

When your body senses stress signals, your adrenal glands will start to produce a stress hormone called cortisol. This will have an impact on your blood sugar level, which allows your muscles to be able to use more energy in a fight-or-flight situation. If stressful events go on for a longer period of time, your cortisol levels will be elevated for a longer time as well. This can lead to elevated blood sugar levels, blood cholesterol levels, triglycerides levels (a type of fat found in the blood), and high blood pressure. All these factors increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Additionally, people who experience a lot of stress often turn to unhealthy behaviour such as smoking, overeating, and a lack of physical activity. These unhealthy coping mechanisms also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease on their own. 

Decrease your stress levels with meditation

Meditation can be an effective technique to reduce your stress levels. It is a practice that involves training the mind to focus and to achieve a state of mental clarity, calmness, and relaxation. This state can be reached by using a combination of both mental and physical techniques. It typically involves focusing your attention on a particular object, sensation, or your breath. 

There are a few ways in which meditation can be beneficial for your heart health and your overall well being: 

  • As you meditate, your body relaxes, which lowers the amount of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in the blood. This helps you feel calm, and reduces stress.
  • Focussing on a specific object or thought can help you tune out distractions and put your mind at ease. This is especially important when you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed. 
  • Stress and the sleep cycle are closely linked. If you’re experiencing high levels of stress for a long period of time, it may be that you’re having trouble falling asleep and that you’re suffering from poor sleep quality. Lack of sleep can also result in higher levels of stress, as it may increase the cortisol levels in your blood. Relaxing with meditation is a great way to break this cycle.
  • Meditation has been shown to increase the production of feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, which can help improve your mood and overall sense of well-being.

Find the type of meditation that suits you most

Meditation can be personalised so that it fits your needs by using one of the many existing techniques, or a combination of them. Some of the most popular types of meditation are: 

  • Mindfulness meditation, which is a type of meditation that focuses on paying attention to the present moment, your breath, sensations in your body, and thoughts and emotions as they arise.
  • Loving-kindness meditation, which involves silently repeating loving phrases towards yourself and others, while visualising experiencing happiness and peace. 
  • Guided meditation, which is a form of meditation which is led by an instructor that provides structure and guidance.
  • Visual meditation, which involves focusing on peaceful mental imagery to promote relaxation and positive emotions, while letting go of other distractions and thoughts.
  • Concentration meditation, which is a type of meditation that involves focusing on an object, an image, your breath, or a mantra, in order to increase your concentration and mental clarity.

The range of meditation techniques is very wide, and expands itself beyond this list. As meditation is very personal, it’s recommended to try some things out and to see what fits best for you.

How to get started

Determined to reduce your stress with meditation? Great! We’ve set aside some tips for you to get started on your journey to lower stress levels: 

  • Start small and realistic when making lifestyle changes. It takes time to create healthy habits, so starting with short meditation sessions of about 5 minutes per day can be a great way to introduce meditation into your life. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can gradually increase the length of your sessions.
  • Make use of an app that guides you by providing you with best practices for meditation and that helps you incorporate meditation into your daily life. Balance is a great example of a meditation app that helps you with personalised and effective meditations. You can now make use of Balance for free for an entire year and experience the benefits of reduced stress levels.
  • Keep track of your heart health by measuring your heart rhythm twice a day with FibriCheck. This way, you can make sure that you’re aware of the condition of your heart. Knowing that your heart rhythm is regular also contributes to peace of mind, which in turn can help you reduce your stress levels as well. 

Created on July 10th, 2023 at 03:07 pm

Last updated on October 13th, 2023 at 10:35 am

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