The Eye Opening Connection: Stress, Anxiety and AFib


When you’re stressed or anxious, it doesn’t just impact your brain, it also affects your physical health. In fact, the heart is one of the first places in which the chronic effects of stress and anxiety can be seen.

Before we dive into the connection between these emotional states and the heart, we must first discuss how our body regulates stress and anxiety and why this is important.

The role of the autonomic nervous system (ANS):

The ANS is the part of the nervous system that is responsible for regulating digestion, respiration, metabolism and the beating of the heart.

There are two divisions within the ANS: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Sympathetic is your stress state of fight or flight. Parasympathetic is your rest and digest state. The vagus nerve controls whether the body is in a stressed) or non-stressed) state.

How a sympathetic state (stress, anxiety) is correlated with AFib:

The body uses our fight-or-flight state for survival during acute times of danger. However, in today’s world, people are chronically stressed and thus “stuck” in this sympathetic state. This means they are not able to fully activate their rest and digest mode. Chronic stress and anxiety have detrimental effects on health, especially that of the heart. However, it really is the continuous activation of the SNS stress state that becomes problematic. In this manner, the state that was designed for survival can then become destructive to health.

In a sympathetic state, the body loses its ability to have a healthy response to stress. If you are chronically stressed or have chronic physical stressors (i.e. toxins, EMF exposure, high blood sugar, etc.), your nervous system is dysfunctional. As a result, the body cannot control inflammation properly and stress hormones build up. With all of this going on, there is a low stress tolerance and just about everything triggers the body towards a disease state, such as AFib.

You’re addicted to stress!

One of the common questions we ask AFib patients is- “Are you addicted to stress?” Usually, most will answer that they are or previously were. Most of our AFibbers identify with the “go go go” or “type A”  personality and tend to be overachievers with many merits. For many, stress has become an identity in their high achiever roles. Unfortunately, this (conscious or unconscious) addiction to the stress response can take its toll on the body and tip the scale in favor of a chronic stress state. 

Is this you? If so, we want you to recognize the importance of what this stress imbalance does to the body over time and how it keeps you stuck in a sympathetic state. In order to heal mode, the body needs to be in a parasympathetic state.

How to manage your stress for AFib:

  1. Try to limit your stress
    • Look for stressful triggers in your daily life and see if you can eliminate any of them. These minor daily shifts can help in lowering your stress exposure.
  1. Strengthen your vagus nerve
    • The health of the vagus nerve is imperative as it dictates how well you shift from stress to rest. Chiropractic, grounding and gargling are some ways to strengthen the vagus nerve. Think of the vagal nerve like a muscle. The goal is to do these vagal nerve activities DAILY in order to restore functioning.
  1. Supplement
    • The best supplement for physiologically pulling the body out of a high stress, sympathetic state is Li-Zyme Forte, which is the trace mineral lithium. Try 1 cap 3x a day for maintenance and 2 tabs 3 x per day for high stress levels.

If you have a high stress level, are stuck in a sympathetic state and have AFib, consider joining our upcoming AFib program. Email health@thedrswolfson.com for more information.


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