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Don't Stress Out Your Heart - 4 Stress Relief Tips
Stress is a normal part of life. It can stem from physical causes, such as an illness or not getting enough sleep. Or emotional ties, such as financial issues or the death of a loved one (and even less dramatic causes, such as everyday obligations and pressures that make you feel that you are not in control).
How Stress Harms Your Heart
Cortisol is a hormone produced in response to stress. High levels of cortisol can increase blood cholesterol triglycerides and blood pressure – the traditional risk factors for heart disease.
Chronic stress can also cause direct physiological changes that promote atherosclerosis, the slow buildup of plaque deposits in the heart’s arteries. Relatively minor stresses also can trigger heart problems, and chronic stress can even affect how your blood clots. Stickier blood increases your risk for stroke.
Wait! Before You Stress Out About Stress
Fortunately, you can decrease the effect of stress on your body by identifying situations that cause it and learning to control your mental and physical reactions to these situations. This also means adopting lifestyle habits that make you less vulnerable to the effects stress has on your heart.
Four Stress Relief Tips
- Sweat it out – Exercise can help counteract the harmful effects of chronic stress. For heart health, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity, such as brisk walking, most days of the week. People who exercise have a reduced physical response to stress – their blood pressure and heart rates don’t go up as high as people under stress who don’t exercise.
- Get support – Research suggests that having a strong social support network – such as being married, having someone you can talk to and trust or belonging to one or more organizations or a religion – can reduce your stress level. A strong support system helps you take better care of yourself, too.
- Seek treatment for depression and anxiety – Depression and anxiety can increase your risk of heart disease, or your risk of dying if you already have it. Ask your physician about treatment-and the stress-reduction techniques, therapy and medication that may help.
- Work at reducing work-related stress – Studies show having a demanding job that offers you few opportunities to make decisions or provides little reward can increase your risk for heart disease. The risk increases when you experience a cluster of stresses, such as not having a strong support system or feeling chronically anxious. To prevent work-related burnout, set aside 10 minutes of down time each day to relax.
Stress Relief is Heart Relief
Your body’s responses to stress are designed to protect you, but when they are constantly activated, stress can harm you. Use these tips to help manage what you can and reduce the risk of stressing out your heart.