• Coach Kat

HEARTBREAK: Understanding How Chronic Stress Breaks Your Heart

By Coach Kat, February 19, 2020, copyright Bronwyn Katdaré 2020


“Stress Kills.” We’ve heard this over and over to the point where we have started to brush it off because, hey, everyone has stress, right? We’re all going to die sometime, right? Our stress and busy-ness has been elevated to a status symbol, a badge of honor showing how “important” our rushed lives are. Doctors are quick to offer a magic pill when you talk with them about stress, overwhelm, anxiety, or the feeling of drowning. Blah, blah, blah, stress kills.


We go about our lives, accumulating bits of stress like static cling lint. We eat it, drink it, speak it, breathe it, bathe in it, and send it off with others.


What does this mean for us?



Let’s first think about heart disorders from an energetic perspective. (Keep reading. I promise I’ll talk about the scientific physical effects soon enough). From an energetic perspective, heart disorders are a result of harboring resentment. Irregular heartbeats and angina are patterns that weaken the heart. These patterns erupt from self-anger and resentment so that you are living in a negative emotional energy field. When you live in this negativity, you cannot have clarity and your decision-making falters: you think in terms of “cannot” and “never.”


The heart center represents the emotional body. As emotions become congested, you begin to experience coronary breakdown and weakening of the system. Symptoms in the physical body include exhaustion and shortness of breath. Any panic or anxiety-related behaviors are electrically charged and result in an irregular heartbeat.


Congestion in the heart and in the emotional body is what happens when emotions get stuck in the physical body instead of being processed in the mental body, then becoming available for release. Here is the kicker: these emotions may belong to you OR they may belong to someone else. Let me explain that last part: for example, empaths always have to ask themselves if what they are feeling belongs to them or to someone else. Even non-empaths might be protecting someone else or not telling a person something they need to hear. When this happens, that emotion or truth is held inside you. When a person has hurt a lot, has been hurt a lot, or has absorbed hurts, it causes the most damaging heart weakening patterns.


Does any of this sound like you???


E=Mc2. This is the world’s most famous equation. Einstein proved that energy and mass (matter) are interchangeable. They are simply different forms of the same thing. Energy must find a way of being expressed, whether verbal or through disease. The pressure resulting in your body when you do not let emotions out, is energy working its way into matter.


A person has a heart attack because congested emotions, panic, or a stressful situation reaches its peak and the system becomes overloaded. This can be situational (like losing a job), due to depression or long periods of loneliness, carrying the emotional burden for others, or due to the abuse of the physical body (crap food, smoking, drinking, sedentary lifestyle, etc.). A heart attack puts all of this to an immediate stop. Basically, the heart has had enough.


Keep this is mind: your history does not heal you, so let it go. Stress and hurt do not heal you, so let them go. Truth heals you. Lies destroy the heart but truth heals it.


For the science nerds, let’s take a look at what happens inside the body when we live in a state of chronic stress. Physician and atherosclerosis researcher, Alan Tall of Columbia University, has stated, “The idea has been out there that chronic psychosocial stress is associated with increased cardiovascular disease in humans, but what’s been lacking is a mechanism.”


Let’s talk mechanism, then.


Many recent epidemiological studies have shown that psychosocial factors may accelerate the development of atherosclerosis. People who face many stressors – including surviving natural disasters, those who work long hours, those who have had sudden trauma - are more likely to develop atherosclerosis, the accumulation of fatty plaques inside blood vessels.


Atherosclerosis is a chronic progressive disease with a long preclinical phase. Risk factors such as age, smoking, blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia, hyperglycemia, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, infection and inflammation, and genetic factors are associated with the development of atherosclerosis. All of these are known to impair endothelial function, which are keys in the early atherogenic process.


Chronic stress has been shown to be a risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis and it contributes to endothelial dysfunction. Why is this important? Impaired endothelial function triggers the first step of atherosclerosis progression and manifests long before the establishment of atherosclerotic disease. Endothelial function is measured by nitric oxide release in the brachial artery before and during hyperemia (increased blood flow). This is called flow-mediated dilation (FMD) and shows the frequency and progression of atherosclerosis. Carotid artery compliance (CAC) is widely used as an index of arterial elasticity, with small artery compliance considered to be an early marker for cardiovascular diseases and of early atherosclerosis. Carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) indicates the severity of atherosclerosis; therefore, increased carotid IMT is associated with coronary atherosclerosis.


That was your down and dirty physiology class. Got it?


So, chronic stress is a risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis and chronic stress contributes to endothelial dysfunction. Symptoms of chronic stress are all too familiar. The first is vital exhaustion (VE), a psychological state characterized by heightened irritability, unusual tiredness, a loss of physical and mental energy, and demoralized feelings. VE is an indicator of chronic mental stress and reflects decreased ability to cope with stress. VE may contribute to an increased risk of early atherosclerosis in young, healthy adults. Studies have demonstrated VE after myocardial infarction and after stroke. Therefore, treating exhaustion may be a strategy to improve cardiovascular health.


Besides endothelial dysfunction, atherosclerosis is affected by factors in the plaque itself. In addition to fats and cholesterols, plaques contain monocytes and neutrophils. Monocytes and neutrophils are immune cells that cause inflammation for the healing of wounds or infections. However, in chronic stress, there is no wound or infection to heal. The fight or flight of the sympathetic nervous system causes monocytes and neutrophils to build and take up residence in the walls of blood vessels. If plaques rupture and escape the walls where they are lodged, they can cause more extreme blockages elsewhere (ie., heart attack or stroke).


The most stressed out people have the highest levels of neutrophils and monocytes. Chronic stress also increases blood concentration of the hormone noradrenaline. Noradrenaline binds to a cell surface receptor protein called β3 on stem cells in bone marrow. In turn, the chemical environment of the bone marrow changes, increasing the activity of the white blood cells produced by the stem cells. When the β3 receptor is blocked, there are fewer of these dangerous plaques as well as decreased levels of active immune cells in plaques. This denotes the β3 protein as a link between stress and atherosclerosis.


So how are you going to heal? That’s the question.


First, you are going to get real with yourself. How have you been abusing yourself, consciously or unconsciously? How have you been allowing others to abuse you? Now, stop it. Stop all of it and get real.


Second, your diet must change. Dr. Michael Klaper is famous for saying, “It’s always the food.” This is the deal and it’s easier than you may think:

1. Whole-food plant-based vegan (meaning you eat easily recognizable foods that look like they did when they were in the ground or on the tree). Drink water! You should consume at minimum half of your weight in ounces/day.

2. Gluten-free (due to inflammation and the fact that the MAJORITY of people do not tolerate gluten even if they show no outward signs of sensitivity). Gluten causes inflammation and inflammation must be kept down.

3. If you already have heart disease or are predisposed to it, I suggest you follow Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., MD, Director of the Cardiovascular Prevention and Reversal Program at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. He has written books and cookbooks on the prevention and reversal of heart disease. In a nutshell, in addition to the recommendations above, you will also eat a diet free of sugar, salt, and oil.

4. Learn to cook and like it. Schedule time to prep and cook. Freeze meals for those days when you know you will be busy.


Third, get moving. Find a form of exercise you enjoy that is also intense enough to build strength and have cardiovascular benefits. The more you enjoy an activity and place it in a convenient timeslot, the more likely you are to do it and stick to it.


Fourth, build your spiritual immune system. Health is not simply a matter of physical or mental health. Utilize the talents of a Shaman, Reiki practitioner, or other practitioner that is trained to work on your spiritual and energetic health.


Fifth, find a means of stress reduction and make it a priority. Tai chi. Qi gong. Yoga. Forest bathing (walking in Nature…no headphones, no texting). Barefoot walking (“grounding”). Journaling. Figure it out and do it.


Sixth, engage with your support system. This may be family, friends, a therapist, or clergy. You must have a system of support to decrease your risk of depression.


Seventh, if you hate your job, figure out an exit plan. Do not suddenly up and leave but definitely change what you are doing. Can you have a flexible schedule so you work from home a couple of days per week? Are you past-due for a promotion or a raise? Would you be happier on a different project? Is your passion somewhere else? Figure out a way to make that your job. If you do not have a job, is your soul screaming for something to do? This may be employment or going back to school but it may also be volunteering – museums, libraries, animal shelters, your child’s school. The key to all of this is to value yourself to make the changes necessary to make your soul sing (and not scream).


Eighth, make your home somewhere you not only want to be but love to be. If it isn’t a place of sanctuary and peace, change it so that it is. Clean, get rid of toxins, display what “sparks joy” and donate what does not.


Ninth, how are your relationships? Do they “spark joy” or are they a source of chronic stress? A trained professional (therapist, health or life coach, or clergy) can help you figure this out.


Tenth, stop smoking. Find your reason WHY to quit smoking and make it big enough to be the most important thing. Is it for your health? Is it for the health of a loved one? Are you afraid? Whatever the reason, make this a priority. If you cannot do this on your own or you have tried time and again, seek the help of a trained professional – a doctor, a hypnotherapist, a smoking cessation specialist.


Finally, one more for good measure: Allow this to speak to the deepest reaches of your soul to get in touch with your wild self and your one precious life:


The Summer Day by Mary Oliver


Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean-- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do With your one wild and precious life?



(Bronwyn Katdaré is a certified Nutrition, Lifestyle, and Functional Medicine Health Coach who focuses on the prevention and reversal of chronic disease through the integrated lens of whole-food plant-based nutrition, physical activity, proper sleep, stress management, a sense of community, and the feeling of joy. She specializes in chronic conditions created by inflammation, sugar cravings and weight issues, toxic relationships, confidence creation and de-bunking limiting beliefs, and healing practices designed to compassionately balance the entire being).



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