Simple Ways to Reduce Stress and Improve Your Heart Health
Simple Ways to Reduce Stress and Improve Your Heart Health
A little emotional stress may be healthy. It is what drives you to meet deadlines and get things done. But research shows that chronic, excessive stress can be as bad for your heart as eating a high-fat diet and living a sedentary lifestyle.
What is stressful for one individual is not for another. Happy events like a job promotion, remarriage, or a new home, and unfortunate events like illness, family problems, or overwork may cause stress.
Everybody feels and responds to stress in different ways. However, the amount of stress you experience and how you react to it may lead to various health problems, so knowing what you can do about it is critical.
A study of the amygdala (the brain’s stress and fear hub) using PET/CT scans (positron emission tomography and computed tomography scans) sheds light on the connection between excessive stress and heart health.
This study showed that individuals with higher activity in the amygdala had more inflammation in the bone marrow and arteries. Moreover, over time, and up to five years later, those with a more consistently activated amygdala were sixty percent more likely to have a heart attack (research published in The Lancet in February 2017).
Stress may be subjective, but the above study was fascinating because it measured the stress response in the brain and its negative impact on the body.
More research underscores the link between stressful events and heart disease risk. For example, divorce, a stressful event, significantly increases the risk of heart attack for both women and men, especially in women who have divorced more than once.
Stress may also indirectly increase the risk of heart disease. This increase happens because stressed individuals also tend to cope poorly. For example, they may sleep poorly and drink, smoke, or overeat to comfort themselves.
Another study found that overeating has a link to an increased chance of a heart attack. Similarly, a meta-analysis found that insomnia increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The encouraging news is that while you may feel stress out of control, it is all in your head. You create the stress response using the power of your thoughts. In the same way, you may also make your sense of calm.
To help you outsmart your amygdala and reduce your risk of heart disease, find out which stress-fighting strategies may work for you.
SIMPLE WAYS TO REDUCE STRESS AND IMPROVE YOUR HEART HEALTH (STRESS-FIGHTING STRATEGIES)
Everyone suffers from stress sometimes, and everyone may benefit from reducing it. However, stress can cause damage to your health, including your heart health. Therefore, reducing stress may go a long way toward preventing and even reversing conditions that may lead to heart disease.
On that note, what can you do to reduce your stress and save your heart?
Next, we will show you some tips for reducing the stress that may have the added benefit of improving your heart health; they include the following:
- PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Exercising regularly and striving to increase your physical activity level throughout the day may reduce stress. This situation is because physical activity reduces the body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol. It also releases endorphins, chemicals in the body that make you feel good.
But the endorphins not only make you feel good, but they also help fight stress. So the key to incorporating regular physical activity into your life is to find sports or workouts you enjoy.
If exercising feels like a chore and is just another thing you must do, the stress-reducing benefits may not be as good. But if you enjoy the activity, you will experience a double benefit. Before starting any new exercise routine, talk to your physician to ensure it is safe.
Laughter is an excellent way to lower stress hormones; try looking for humor in everyday life; it is okay to laugh at yourself. We all know that laughter is contagious; spend time with people who make you laugh or watch a comedy.
Some more benefits of laughter may include the following:
- Helps reduce inflammation
- Helps increase your HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, the good cholesterol.
- Increases the level of oxygen throughout your body
- Helps relieve tension by relaxing muscles
- Eases your stress response
- Helps improve your mood and immune system.
- DO YOGA
Yoga helps you focus your thoughts, calm your mind, strengthen your body, and relax. It is an excellent exercise for your heart. It helps lower blood pressure and reduces other risks of developing heart disease. Furthermore, it can help you manage the inevitable stress in your life.
- BEING THANKFUL (GIVE THANKS)
Every day spend a few minutes thinking about what you are grateful for or keeping a gratitude journal since it may have numerous benefits and tremendous health effects that can reduce stress and protect your heart health.
Gratitude can boost your immune system, improve your mood, help you sleep better, reduce the effects of aging on the brain, and reduce stress. For example, a study showed that grateful individuals had a twenty-five percent reduction in cortisol stress hormone.
- PRAYER OR MEDITATION
Evidence shows that praying or meditating reduces blood pressure and other risks of heart disease. In addition, they may help you focus on what is important to you and control stress more effectively.
- DEEP BREATHING
Relaxation exercises and deep breathing are beneficial for the mind and body. They provide more oxygen into your body, and evidence shows that deep breathing lowers cortisol levels and even temporarily lowers blood pressure.
- LISTENING TO MUSIC
Music may help you relax, and some may help lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol level. Of course, relaxing music will likely have the most significant soothing effect, but listening to music you enjoy may help you feel better and manage stress more efficiently.
Nature sounds, such as birdsong, crashing waves, and thunderstorms, can also be relaxing and have a similar effect as music.
- WALK, GO FOR A WALK
Combining exercise with time spent outdoors can be a great stress reliever. As you walk, pay attention to the world around you. Listen to the sounds of nature, notice all the texture and color, touch the flowers and leaves, and feel the ground under your feet.
You do not have to walk far or fast to get the stress-relieving of spending time outdoors. Preferably, leave the cell phone and screens behind and enjoy nature.
Many individuals find that keeping a journal can help them reduce stress. Write about anything that occurs to you. For example, some individuals reflect on their day, write about their plans or, as mentioned above, keep a gratitude journal.
Some find that writing down their goals helps them feel less stressed and more motivated. Writing with a pencil or pen on paper may also help you relax and take you away from screens, another benefit of writing.
Spending time with family and friends can improve your mental and physical health. For example, one study showed that spending time with friends and children helps release oxytocin (the natural stress-relieving chemical).
Many studies have shown that individuals with a solid social network tend to live longer and recover better after a health crisis, such as a heart attack. In addition, having close friends and family to turn to may help you control stress and make your life more pleasant, which can also reduce stress.
Napping can feel great and help reduce your body’s cortisol levels, which may help relieve stress. In addition, napping may also help ensure you get enough sleep, which can help keep the pressure at bay.
- HUGGING SOMEONE
Studies show that hugging can lower cortisol levels and blood pressure. Additionally, it feels great.
- GET A DOG OR CAT
Spending time with animals helps reduce stress hormones, and petting cats and dogs may temporarily lower blood pressure. In addition, at least one study showed that spending time with dogs may increase oxytocin, making you feel great.
Plus, if you have a dog, you are more likely to exercise, as your dog will encourage you to find a leash and go for a walk; you can get a double benefit for you and your dog.
- LEARN TO SAY NO
You have probably heard a hundred times that you cannot always make everybody happy. Therefore, if you struggle to find time in your day to do the things necessary for your health and spend time with your family, you will benefit from encountering ways to eliminate some tasks from your schedule.
Take some time to exercise, relax, and do things that help reduce stress instead of adding to it.
You can take many actions to lower stress and improve your heart health. Stress relief is under your control, do it!
At Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, we do not try to substitute the medical guidance of your physician.
Visit Modern Heart and Vascular Institute for high-quality primary care close to home. Call 832-644-8930 to book your appointment today.
We are Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, a diagnostic and preventative medicine cardiology practice. For more information, contact us.
CARDIOVASCULAR CENTERS IN HOUSTON, TEXAS
Modern Heart and Vascular, a preventive cardiology medical practice, has several offices around Houston. We have locations in Humble, Cleveland, The Woodlands, Katy, and Livingston.
We are Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, a diagnostic and preventative medicine cardiology practice.
Every heart has a story… What’s yours?
Book an Appointment Today
At the Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, we offer state-of-the-art cardiovascular care with innovative diagnostic tools and compassionate patient care. Our priority at Modern Heart and Vascular Institute is prevention. We help patients lead healthier lives by avoiding unnecessary procedures and surgeries.
This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930.