Dr. Chauncey W. Crandall, author of Dr. Crandall’s Heart Health Report newsletter, is chief of the Cardiac Transplant Program at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He practices interventional, vascular, and transplant cardiology. Dr. Crandall received his post-graduate training at Yale University School of Medicine, where he also completed three years of research in the Cardiovascular Surgery Division. Dr. Crandall regularly lectures nationally and internationally on preventive cardiology, cardiology healthcare of the elderly, healing, interventional cardiology, and heart transplants. Known as the “Christian physician,” Dr. Crandall has been heralded for his values and message of hope to all his heart patients.

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Activity Trumps Stress

Tuesday, 19 Jul 2011 04:35 PM


Researchers have long suspected that stress plays a role in heart disease, but they hadn’t pinpointed exactly how stress was affecting the heart until recently. Now they know that stress can be caused by cigarettes, fatty foods, sugary treats, and the other confirmed causes of heart disease.

Here’s how it works: Stress is the body’s response to an imminent threat. Once again, we can think back to our prehistoric ancestors to understand just how this process works. Imagine a prehistoric man out in the open, searching for food, when a saber-toothed tiger suddenly comes across his path. His body springs into action to avoid become food himself.

Automatically, his adrenal glands start emitting hormones, including adrenalin and cortisol, to quicken his heart and get blood pumping to his legs to enable him to escape. This is what’s known as the “fight-or-flight” response.

Although we aren’t likely to encounter any saber-toothed tigers as we go about our daily life nowadays, we do get into stressful situations, such as fights with our bosses or money troubles. In those cases, our adrenal glands keep churning out hormones. As a result, these hormones, particularly cortisol, remain in our bloodstream too long.

Now here’s the connection. The formation of plaque in the arteries is the hallmark of coronary heart disease. This plaque not only causes blockages but also damages walls of blood vessels. Unfortunately, the body’s reaction is to send white blood cells to fight that plaque. The result is inflammation, which can cause a bit of the plaque to break off and head further down the blood to the artery, where it can cause a blockage that results in a heart attack.

The body does have ways to dampen this inflammatory response. However — and this is where stress comes in — the cortisol released as a “fight-or-flight” response blocks the body’s dampening mechanism, thereby fueling the inflammation as well.

Fortunately, you can blunt the “flight-or-fight” response by being active. When you exercise, your body produces endorphins, which are hormones that act as natural mood elevators. This is how activity alleviates depression. Over time, the natural suppression of cortisol also will cause a drop in blood pressure.



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