NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

November 15, 2013

Health and Well-Being: Reflections on heart disease

(Continued)

Antioxidant vitamins have been shown to stabilize free radical pathology and thereby reduce their risk to the cardiovascular system. Antioxidant vitamins include A, C, E, selenium and beta carotene. It is a good idea to get a daily supply of these vitamins either in a carefully planned nutritional program and/or with an excellent-quality nutritional supplement.

These vitamins can also be very helpful in moderating the destructive effects of stress biochemistry. When we are chronically stressed, our body has a hard time adjusting to the powerful hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that are generated by the stress response. For many people, these hormones lead to a constriction of the smooth muscle fibers that line our arterioles and blood vessels.

As with atherosclerosis, what results is that the heart has to work very hard to pump blood throughout the system. Some symptoms of stress-induced vascular constriction include frequently cold hands and feet, as well as high blood pressure.

Learning how to pull the plug on stress can help us avoid the harmful biochemical consequences of stress. Deep relaxation and mindfulness training can enable us to keep our arterioles and blood vessels dilated, so that our blood vessels do not constrict and put our heart at risk.

Counseling and psychotherapy are very useful for dismantling stress provoking personality patterns characterized by impatience, anger, hostility, and a sense of urgency and pressure about time. These are some of the features of the coronary-prone personality. We have three coronary arteries that the heart relies upon for its supply of blood. Blockage or spasm in just one of them can cause a heart attack.

A Harvard Medical School study has recently shown that, under stress, people with coronary artery disease experience a 27 percent decrease in blood flow. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, this study indicates how badly stress biochemistry can constrict damaged arteries. Other studies have shown that feelings of anger can send diseased coronary arteries into spasm. This cuts off oxygen that the left ventricle of our heart needs for pumping.

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