Last week not only did we have Theresa May announce a new focus on mental health but we also had a groundbreaking study that The Lancet published that suggested that the effect of constant stress on the brain explains an increased risk of heart attack. Therefore stress could be as bigger a risk as smoking and high blood pressure.
Emotional stress has long been linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease which affects the heart and blood vessels but it has not been understood how this is the case. This Harvard Medical School study of 300 people points to heightened activity in the amygdala - the area of the brain that processes emotions such as anxiety, fear and anger - suggesting that the amygdala signals to the bone marrow to produce extra white blood cells, which in turn act on the arteries causing them to become inflamed. It is this that then leads to angina, stokes and heart attacks.
The amygdala is the part of the brain that prepares you for a fight or flight response which is activated by strong emotional reactions. In humans and animals, the amygdala is linked to responses to both fear and pleasure. Heavy workloads, job insecurity, poverty and emotional pressures can all lead to chronic psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression. It is this psychological mind stress that could be literally at the heart of the problem.
In the past the focus has been on controlling lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol and overeating - all you could argue are comforting behaviours to deal with stress! Instead focusing on the brain's management of stress and the underlying cause that is as a result of internal thinking and perception would be a more effective way forward to reducing the risk of heart disease.
The work I do using hypnotherapy, NLP and Thought Field Therapy targets both negative thinking and emotion, helping clients move on from stress to more resourceful ways of dealing with both the real and perceived problems in their lives. This can be done in a relatively short time as humans are intelligent creatures and tend to learn quickly when there are more useful choices in thinking and behaviour available to them.
If you feel under stress and want to explore new ways of dealing with it then call or email me to discuss in more detail. It could be a life saver!
John Plester is Principal Tutor of the East Anglian Institute of Hypnotherapy and lead consultant at Norwich Hypnotherapy Practice.