We’re often told that stress is bad for our health. But the truth is, the link between stress and heart disease isn’t entirely clear.
Studies have shown that when you’re stressed your body releases adrenaline into your blood stream, causing your heart rate and blood pressure to go up temporarily. If you’re constantly under stress, your body doesn’t get the chance to rest because you’re always in high gear, and as a result, your artery walls become damaged.
While the link isn’t entirely clear from a scientific standpoint, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put two and two together: If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, your world just got rocked. And even if you haven’t been diagnosed, stress can trigger all of your risk factors.
Think about how stress affects you under normal circumstances: It makes you feel anxious, tense or depressed; random aches and pains appear out of nowhere; it can make you gain weight and lose sleep; it can even make you get sick.
Now imagine what stress can do if your heart isn’t 100 percent healthy. If it can make a healthy person ill, you can only imagine what it can do to someone who has been diagnosed with heart disease – or worse, someone who has suffered a heart attack or stroke.
Diagnosis or not, stress is something you need to put the kibosh on. Here are a few things you can do to get started:
1. Take a deep breath. Carve out time for meditation, deep breathing, yoga or tai chi, crank up some tunes or go for a short walk. Whatever activity you find calming, find the time to do it every day for at least 15 minutes.
2. Give up your vices. Overdoing it with alcohol or caffeine can put stress into overdrive, so try to cut back as much as possible. If you smoke, you already know it’s a bad habit. Drop it. We know quitting isn’t easy, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
3. Burn some steam. Give your endorphins a boost with regular physical activity. Exercise relieves mental and physical tension, and anyone who has experienced runner’s high knows what we mean. Not to mention, physically active adults have a lower risk of depression and function better mentally. Try walking, swimming, biking or another form of cardio every day.
4. Consider stress management. If you’re always in a rush, impatient, hostile or constantly stressed, stress management classes might be worth looking into. They’re usually held at community colleges, rehab programs or hospitals, and your healthcare professional can likely recommend one for you.