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Stress and Cardiovascular Health

Stressed man sitting at desk in front of laptop

It has long been known that there is a connection between stress and inflammation. Increasingly, evidence is mounting to indicate that inflammation is a major factor in the pathogenesis of chronic diseases. It is now understood that 75 to 90 percent of human disease is related to stress and inflammation. This includes illnesses like cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, as well as neurodegenerative disorders. Researchers believe that chronic stress leads glucocorticoid receptor resistance. This, in turn, prevents the body from downregulating inflammatory responses.

Stress and inflammation are clearly linked to cardiovascular risk. In fact, there is ample research to indicated that chronic stress is linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease risk, whether that stress is experienced as an adult or in childhood. Childhood trauma, including physical or sexual abuse in childhood, relates to a higher predisposition toward cardiovascular events. In adulthood, work-related stress, poor sleep, and emotional stress have been connected with cardiovascular disease. Heart disease risk is higher among BIPOC communities, because of the added stressors of racism and discrimination.

It is not surprising to note that the risk of depression, autoimmune diseases, upper respiratory infections, and poor wound healing are increased due to chronic psychological stress and inflammation.” Researchers from Cambridge examined the link between depression and coronary heart disease in a 2019 study, finding that the connection between these two conditions is environmentally related, rather than a genetic predisposition. Investigating 15 biomarkers of coronary heart disease risk, they found that several were also risk factors for depression. They also found that the comorbidity of depression and coronary heart disease can also be linked with early-life factors like childhood trauma or impaired fetal development. For people who had low birth weight or were maltreated as children, levels of inflammatory markers, depression, and coronary heart disease increased in adulthood.

Stress and Gastrointestinal Health

In another study, from 2018, researchers tested the theory that gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are related to stress and inflammation, looking for the underlying mechanism. Their research suggested that chronic stress disturbs gut microbiota and triggers an immune system response, inducing colitis. Further research has concluded that evidence suggesting that psychological factors have only a weak to moderate involvement in the exacerbation of inflammatory bowel symptoms is inconclusive, and the topic warrants further research.

How To Manage Stress

It’s clear from this body of scientific work that there is a clear connection between stress and chronic disease. How, then, can we manage this stress.? What do functional medicine clinicians have in their toolbox to target stress-related factors and improve their patients’ health? Because the functional medicine model looks at identifying stress as a cause of medical issues and utilizes interventions to help the individual patient, practitioners are in a unique position to help. There is increasing evidence pointing to the benefits of regular exercise, yoga, and meditation for preventing and improving the effects of chronic stress, and by incorporating practices like these into a treatment plan, functional medical practitioners can prompt lifestyle changes that help their patients manage stress.

Schedule An Appointment with Advanced Functional Medicine

At Advanced Functional Medicine, an integrated medical clinic, we exclusively practice functional medicine. A full functional medicine approach to healing uses a comprehensive diagnostic screening to get to the root of a patient’s issues. Our whole body approach to medicine utilizes all-natural, researched-based nutritional approaches to optimize the body’s natural healing abilities, rather than just using medication to treat symptoms. Each individual receives unique and customized care, formulated based on the latest scientific resource, and we have a 96 percent success rate in patient outcomes. As a medically driven, patient-focused health clinic, we support our patients’ individual health goals, providing natural relief for symptoms of chronic factors and expert guidance about the decisions affecting a patient’s long-term health. It is our goal to help reverse chronic disease without resorting to dangerous or unnecessary drugs or surgical interventions, promoting healing from the inside out, in its truest, healthiest form. To schedule an appointment or learn more about how we can help restore your health and strengthen your body’s unique physiological functions, call 858-500-5572 or contact us through our website.