Feeling Stressed? Here’s How You Could Be Hurting Your Heart
February is all about the heart. Not only does it have Valentine’s Day, but it’s also American Heart Month, which brings awareness to cardiovascular disease (the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States). That’s why now is the perfect time to talk about ways to improve your heart health. And while you likely think that means improving your diet and making sure you get enough exercise, it’s also important to focus on ways to reduce chronic stress.
Chronic stress, which is when you feel stressed for an extended period of time, can lead to issues like anxiety, changes in sleep and a lack of energy. All of this excessive stress can contribute to health issues like asthma, ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome. And because stress releases adrenaline, it can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to rise, ultimately increasing your risk of heart disease.
Everyone feels stressed for different reasons, whether it’s figuring out how to pay your bills, meeting a tight deadline at work or dealing with a child’s behavioral issues. But no matter the cause, it’s important to manage your stress levels if you want to take care of your heart health. Here are some do’s and don’ts for how to deal with stress:
- DO exercise. Staying active lowers your risk for heart disease on its own, but it also helps reduce stress by boosting your endorphins, helping you remain calm and improving your sleep and mood. For the latest workout trends, easy workouts you can try out at home and more, check out our blogs: 6 Foolproof Ways to Work Out Before 6 AM and How to Maintain Your Workout Regimen through the Seasons.
- DON’T smoke. It’s natural to want to light up a cigarette when you feel overly stressed, but smoking can increase your blood pressure and may damage artery walls. For concrete ways to quit your smoking habit, check out these smoking cessation tools available to you.
- DON’T overdo it on caffeine. While a cup of coffee in the morning can certainly help you have a more productive day, drinking it all day long (or more than your body is used to) can stimulate your nervous system and increase blood pressure. On top of that, it can cause anxiety or nervousness, which can also trigger stress. With these things in mind, it’s important to limit yourself. For ways to cut back during your typical workday, check out these tips on how to drink less coffee in the office.
- DO eat a healthy diet. Stressful situations can often make people turn to high-fat, sugary “comfort foods.” Unfortunately, eating a diet with lots of these kinds of foods can increase your risk for heart disease. To reduce your risk, try to eat a diet full of things like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy, and lean proteins.
- DO try practicing meditation. Research suggests meditation can help protect against heart disease in addition to reducing stress levels. To read more about meditation, check out these blogs: Relax your mind with these popular meditation styles and A Healthier Life Takes One Minute.
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