The heart and stress

22 September 2019 / 7:59 pm

We all believe that too much stress is bad for us – but it is interesting to break this down and think about what stress really is? We have recently helped write a paper with biometric company B-Secur which explores the balance between the competing and complimentary autonomic nervous systems which contribute to stress – the sympathetic (fight and flight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest) systems. The report provides a detailed understanding of their effects on the heart and the body and explores new ways to allow us to measure stress as a personalised variable.

Some stress is clearly helpful, for example an increased heart rate before a big sporting event gets the body into the right state of tune so that it is physically ready for action. However, the same sympathetic responses at times when they are not physically required can result in an increased heart rate, excess sweating, anxiety and can make sufferers feel unwell. Excess parasympathetic stimulation can also be harmful, resulting in sudden changes in heart rate, drops in blood pressure and resulting in faints or blackouts.

Until recently it has been difficult to estimate the stress response in the body but B-Secur are now personalising this with a relative stress score. This allows users to track their stress response through the day and as well as providing spot checks of autonomic neurological activation.

We are really excited to be working with B-Secur in The Allan Lab, our research department in Jersey. We are examining the impact of virtual and augmented reality environments on stress and ways that non-drug interventions can have an impact at modulating stress. This is a really exciting field of immersive health technology. Not only is it providing a fascinating insight into the complex ways that our autonomic nervous system functions but is allowing us to develop new therapeutic interventions to help patients suffering from stress.

For more information please read the paper on stress and ECG biometrics by clicking here.




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