Can Stress Cause Heart Disease?

Thursday, 09 Jan 2014 10:19 AM

By Peter Hibberd, M.D.

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Question: My brother had triple-bypass surgery this summer just before his 40th birthday. He is in very good health — eats a good diet, is not overweight, and plays tennis three times a week — but has a very stressful job. Could stress be the reason?

Dr. Hibberd's answer:
 
Your brother is not in good health and has very premature coronary artery disease. Stress does play a role in such cases, but is not the only reason. He would be well advised to seek physician consultation to apprise him of his risks.
 
I would not be surprised if there is a family history of CAD. This should serve as wake-up call for you and your brother to take pre-emptive steps to avoid serious problems. Here are some tips for you:
 
1) Stop smoking, if you use tobacco.
 
2) Control your blood pressure, keeping it to 130/80 or better.
 
3) Check your cholesterol and aim to have an HDL level over 60, LDL under 80 (use a statin, such as Crestor if needed) and triglycerides under 150 (with fish oil supplementation).

4) Manage your stress levels and be sure to get regular exercise.
 
5) Keep your blood sugar under control.
 
6) Avoid unnecessary medications.
 
7) Limit alcohol intake (no more than two drinks per day).
 
8) Get enough sleep every night, and treat any sleep apnea aggressively.
 
9) Balance your diet with high-fiber, low-fat foods. Keep salt to a minimum and be sure to get adequate vitamin D and calcium.
 
10) See your doctor for any unresolved issues such as fatigue or insomnia.

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