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Heart Disease & Stress

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While stress alone is not solidly linked to heart disease, “stress may affect behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risk: high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity, and overeating,” according to the American Heart Association. Some people might smoke or drink alcohol when feeling stressed, and over time these habits might contribute to heart disease.

Stress is explained in the book, “Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions” (Bull Publishing, 2012): “Your body is used to functioning at a certain level. When there is a need to change this level, your body must adjust to meet the demand. It reacts by preparing to take some action: Your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises, your neck and shoulder muscles tense, your breathing becomes more rapid, your digestion slows, your mouth becomes dry, and you may begin sweating. These are signals of what we call stress.”

Experts recommend that stress be managed in a healthy way:

  • Relax using meditation, yoga, tai chi, or visualization. There are many classes available in all of these practices to help learn the skills and get the most benefit.
  • Exercising, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep can also help with the ability to handle stress.
  • Make time for simple pleasure such as reading, playing games, talking to friends, making art, listening to music, or something that is unique to you. Companionship can make a difference in a person’s stress level.

It’s important for everyone to manage stress successfully, not just those at risk for heart disease or who have been diagnosed with heart disease.

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