How Stress Causes High Cholesterol

Everybody knows that stress is a killer, and that if you put yourself through too much of it, you’ll be putting your life, health, and mental wellbeing at risk. This wasn’t always known in the past, but in the medical field today, high stress and its effects is treated just like other common ailments.

High cholesterol levels in the body are also problematic and, again, this probably isn’t news to you. But what if there’s a connection between stress and cholesterol levels in your body?

It’s important to understand how stress and cholesterol impact your health and that being stressed out all the time might be pushing your cholesterol levels into dangerous territory.

Diet Isn’t the Only Factor

When people have high cholesterol, they tend to go on diets that reduce generally unhealthy ingredients like saturated fats, salt and processed sugar. This is often recommended by a doctor after a routine cholesterol check, which men and women should have regularly starting at ages 35 and 45, respectively.

The problem is that diet doesn’t always fix high cholesterol. For a lot of people, elevated cholesterol levels aren’t just a result of what they’re eating. They’re also a factor of what they’re doing and the amount of stress that they deal with on a day-to-day basis.

The Stress and Cholesterol Connection

low density lipoprotein cholesterolYou may have never thought about stress raising your cholesterol before, but medical professionals are becoming more and more concerned about it each day.
Chronic stress, whether it’s from a difficult job with many deadlines, or a strained personal life, can cause lipid concentrations in the body to rise. Over time, LDL cholesterol – the bad kind – can accumulate in the arteries, causing atherosclerosis, which reduces overall blood flow. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States, so your cholesterol levels are nothing to play around with.

Stress also stimulates the production of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline in the body. These hormones spur your body to release triglycerides and free-floating fatty acids, which can in turn increase your LDL cholesterol level.

Stress Changes Your Behavior

triglyceridesExperiencing too much stress over a long period of time can wreak havoc on your body and put you at an elevated risk for heart disease and having a heart attack as you age. There’s more to how stress impacts your heart and your general health, though.

When you’re stressed out, you’re not nearly as likely to get up and exercise in the morning. You’re going to hit the snooze button and try to catch a few more winks instead. The same goes for trying to hit the gym at the end of a 15-hour day or after a fight with your partner.

The amount of stress you’re under also plays a major role in lifestyle choices. People who are under a great deal of stress tend to choose comfort foods to eat instead of picking healthy options. Isn’t it more likely that you could binge on ice cream when you’re stressed out than when you’re happy and in a great mood?

Adults who consume alcohol are also susceptible to drinking more when they’re under a lot of stress. Those extra calories can impact your weight, not to mention the damage too much alcohol can do to other parts of your body like your liver.

Individuals who smoke or who have recently quit are also more likely to light up when under stress.

What Can I Do?

If you’re like most people, you know that stress is a problem in your life, but you may not know how to fix it. For many of my patients, stress often seems like an unavoidable health hazard between work, family and personal life. Luckily, there are some surprisingly easy changes you can make to help reduce your stress levels.

Practice What You Preach

You’ve probably advised friends to “stay positive” when they are feeling down or stressed out. Remember to practice what you preach! Positive thinking can make a huge impact on your overall wellbeing and help keep stress levels balanced.

Eat Right

Diet is no longer considered the only factor for rising cholesterol levels, but it’s still one of the most important ones. When you’re stressed, it’s easy to give in to unhealthy food cravings. However, this time is when your body needs healthy, whole, quality food.

Take the time to recognize when you’re likely to be under stress and plan healthy meals for yourself in advance. If you work in an office, pack a healthy lunch and snacks at least three days a week, and see how you feel. You’ll probably notice that you feel better overall, and less stressed, and you’ll be helping keep your cholesterol levels in check with proper nutrition. Some foods help with weight loss efforts.

How the biostation can help

Contact the biostation to learn more about stress, cholesterol and how the two impact your health. We can help guide you toward a healthier, more active and peaceful lifestyle that will positively impact your overall wellness, stress levels and state of mind.