How Does Stress Affect Us?

Let us consider the most common emotion of this century—anger. What happens when you are angry?

Thirty-six chemicals pour into the blood: Lethal chemicals like adrenaline and histamine. The heart and pulse rates shoot up. The rate of breathing increases. The body gets ready to fight or flee. Digestion is switched off. All parts of the brain, except the primitive ‘lizard brain’is switched off. Primitive man who was confronted by a tiger needed this state of high alert to survive in the jungle. Today, this desperate Mayday response, this most primitive survival response, is used frivolously, not to save life, but in response to office politics or a traffic jam.

As the blood rushes through the heart, during an anger attack, it raises blood pressure. The force of blood-flow in an enraged person causes minute tears in the tender fabric of the arteries. Fatty deposits find a convenient place to park themselves to repair the tears—cholesterol, the plaster of Paris of the body, slowly builds up to occlude the artery. Soon the tender flexible artery becomes stiff and hard, preparing the stage for a heart attack.

Excerpts from ‘The Happiness Quotient’