Be Good to Your Heart- Small Business Stress and Health

stress-heart health

 Manage four risk factors, work on stress level- preventive medicine is key to achieving optimal health



Benjamin  Franklin said,An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure”

Author’s note: This is part 2 of 2 of Small Business Owners Not All Chest Pain is Created Equal

Many causes of chest pain and cardiac related symptoms commonly seen in the health care setting are defined as “psychosomatic”.    These symptoms are real, uncomfortable and cause us great distress, and may be caused by a multitude of untoward circumstances that affect us every day.

Thta impact of Stress

Primary among these causes is our nemesis “STRESS!”

This underappreciated but highly important personal risk factor for chronic disease affects everyone at some time or another.  Acute crushing chest pain from whatever cause will get your attention quickly and along with unexplained dizziness are the most common “non-cardiac” reasons we visit a health care provider or emergency room.   It may be that at that moment you are not experiencing a life threatening ischemic cardiac event (heart attack), however we must recognize the long term effects of stress hormones on our bodies and overall health.

Stress or an acute “sympathetic nervous system” discharge, also known as the “Fight or Flight” response is a physiologic state that we have inherited during the evolution of man.  A barrage of stress hormones, epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, and interferon (and many more) are liberated in large quantities allowing us to react seemingly in a super human fashion and deal with stressful situations.

Our eyes will dilate, our heart rate and blood pressure increases, and blood is purposefully shunted away from non-essential organs (gut, kidneys, and brain) to provide increased blood flow to muscles and the heart, allowing us to “fight or flee”.  Often we will hyperventilate, causing difficulty swallowing, chest tightness, dizziness and possibly fainting (syncope).  Anyone who has experienced this knows the forceful effect of a true sympathetic surge.

It deserves to be mentioned that anger is a similar physiologic reaction, and because of the decrease in blood flow to critical areas of the brain during a “fight or flight” response, our judgment is often impaired and may cause one to act irresponsibly or unusual.  Controlling one’s temper and managing anger at work, with employees, our family and especially are spouses are lessons often learned the hard way.   Recognition of our own physiologic limitations under stress is the first step to effectively managing them.

Any medical professional worth his salt would tell you that good preventive health care by your primary care provider, including annual history and physicals combined with appropriate preventive screening labs or imaging studies is the best way to assure that you avoid a true cardiovascular event and live to walk your 8 year old daughter down the aisle or take that trip you always dreamed of to the Taj Mahal.

Importantly, most cardiovascular, other chronic diseases and stress can be managed and prevented by addressing behavioral risk factors such as:

  1. Tobacco use
  2. Unhealthy diet and obesity
  3. Physical inactivity
  4. Harmful use of alcohol using

Assuming that your Family Medical History is void of a First Degree relative (mother, father, brother sister) with premature Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA or Stroke), Unstable Angina, or “CVD Equivalents” (Type II Diabetes), you don’t smoke, don’t have treated or untreated Hypertension, don’t have high cholesterol, then your overall risk of dying from cardiac disease is determined primarily by your gender and age.   This is essentially the well-known “Framingham Risk Score” used by most health professionals that estimates your “percent” chance of having a major cardiac event in the next 10 years.  So, a 52 year old male non-smoker with a negative family history for CVD (myself) with treated HTN has a 3% “Risk” of a cardiac event in the next 10 years.

What is your score?

Chest Pain and other similar physical and emotional symptomatology thus do not always equal acute cardiovascular disease but are a symptom of the stress and abuse we endure as busy professionals.  We again must remind ourselves of the sometimes negative impact our human existence in a highly complex, highly technologically advanced and highly overcommitted lifestyles has on our fragile health.

Our lives are more often void of the experience and serenity of nature, clean air and a quite existence.  We might fool ourselves into believing that we actually thrive on the competition and hurried pace of our lives.  Teaching ourselves and our loved ones to stop and reflect (disconnect) on the present surroundings has never been more important.

The objective of this series is to spotlight topics small business owners need to discuss with their physician’s. It’s sole purpose is to encourage small business owners to make the time to address their health by setting up an appointment with a qualified recognized cardiac health professional. 

Relared articles:

Small Business Owners Not All Chest Pain is Created Equal

Your Health ROI Effects Your Bottom Line

One Small Step to Executive Health and Fitness


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