It is a commonly accepted fact that stress refers to the sum total of the physical, mental and emotional strains and tensions on an individual. In humans, the feeling of stress is a result of his interaction with the environment or other individuals believed as straining due to the fact that they are threatening their being and can surpass their innate adaptive capability. Each and every individual are cognitively developed to adapt to different stressful events in his life. This gave rise to the development of unique perception within himself that he or she can take the stress or not. This resulted to difference in personalities and
varying degrees of physical and emotional stability and health. It can be hypothesized that those who effectively cope up with stresses developed to a well balanced healthy individual while those who succumbed to just simple stress became a sickly less dependable one. Against the backdrop of differences in coping up mechanism with stress, this paper aims to provide a scientific elucidation of how stress affect the cardiovascular system of the body and how the other physiological processes are affected. Stress and the cardiovascular system The heart, veins, arteries and the blood are the components of the cardiovascular system.
As blood circulates, it picks up oxygen from the lungs, nutrients from the small intestine and hormones from the endocrine glands and deliver them to the cells. On the way back, the blood picks up carbon dioxide and wastes from the cells and deliver them to lungs and kidneys where they are excreted. This circulatory function of he human body react to stress by activating a section of the brain known as the hypothalamic- pituitary-adrenal system or HPA (Brotman, Golden &Wittstein, 2007). The system then activates the release of steroid hormone known as glucocorticoids which include the cortisol that function as the human
body’s primary stress hormone. The authors revealed that as the circulatory function progresses and react to stress, the HPA system releases the neurotransmitters called as catecholamines which include dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine popularly known as adrenaline. The catechloamines activate the amygdala, responsible for emotional response of fear and signal the hippocampus to store the emotional experience of fear in the long term memory. Furthermore, the catecholoamines also suppress the part of the brain responsible for storing the short term memory, concentration and thinking rationally.
This suppression allow the human body to quickly react to stress but also lower the ability to deal with the complex tasks related to social and intellectual functions during the moment of stress. The heart in reaction to stress increases its pumping activity by 300 to 400 times and constricts the arteries resulting to blood pressure rise and may block the flow of blood to the heart. Stress also cause the release of more clotting factors into the blood which may increase the likelihood of clot forming and artery block. The reaction to stress also triggers the release of more fats into the blood stream raising temporarily the
cholesterol level. These factors if occurring regularly can cause damage to the inner lining of the blood vessels. Based from the heart’s reaction to stress, Brotman et al. , (2007) revealed that occurrence of lingering disease of high blood pressure with comorbidity with high cholesterol level can occur. The authors made mention that high blood pressure is a result of constriction of the blood vessels which favors the accumulation of blood clotting fats along the inner lining if the individual is weak in coping up with stress. If the vascular system is weakened by chronic stress, the individual may succumb to cardiac arrest and stroke.