Preventing and managing chronic stress can lower your risk for serious conditions like heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and depression.  Managing stress is a good idea for your overall health, and researchers are currently studying whether managing stress is effective for heart disease. A few studies have examined how well treatment or therapies work in reducing the effects of stress on cardiovascular disease. Studies using psychosocial therapies – involving both psychological and social aspects – are promising in the prevention of second heart attacks. After a heart attack or stroke, people who feel depressed, anxious or overwhelmed by stress should talk to their doctor or other healthcare professionals.

According to a poll by Harris Interactive, most Americans are suffering from moderate to high stress, with 44% reporting that their stress levels have increased over the past five years. Concerns about money, work and the economy top the list of most frequently cited sources of stress. Fears about job stability are on the rise, with 49 percent of respondents citing such fears as a source of stress — up from 44 percent last year

Stress and Heart Disease

“The relationship between stress, heart disease and sudden death has been recognized since antiquity. The incidence of heart attacks and sudden death have been shown to increase significantly following the acute stress of natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis and as a consequence of any severe stressor that evokes “fight or flight’ responses. Coronary heart disease is also much more common in individuals subjected to chronic stress and recent research has focused on how to identify and prevent this growing problem, particularly with respect to job stress. ”  – The American Institute of Stress

Because stress is directly related to high blood pressure and heart disease, it’s important to be aware of the signs that you are stressed.  Taking action against stress can help you maintain a healthy heart, body and mind. But do you know how to identify stress?  Or how to deal with it?

Signs That You May be Stressed

When people are under stress, they may feel:

  • Worried
  • Angry
  • Irritable
  • Depressed
  • Unable to focus

Physical Signs of Stress

  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Problems sleeping
  • Upset stomach
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Tense muscles
  • Frequent or more serious colds

What Can I Do If To Stop or Reduce Stress

Emergency stress stoppers are actions you can take immediately to help you deal with and reduce stress in the moment. Different situations call for different tactics, and sometimes it helps to combine strategies. Here are some ideas:

  1. Count to 10 before you speak or react.
  2. Take a few slow, deep breaths until you feel your body un-clench a bit.
  3. Go for a walk, even if it’s just to the restroom and back. It can help break the tension and give you a chance to think things through.
  4. Try a quick meditation or prayer to get some perspective.
  5. If it’s not urgent, sleep on it and respond tomorrow. This works especially well for stressful emails and social media trolls.
  6. Walk away from the situation for a while, and handle it later once things have calmed down.
  7. Break down big problems into smaller parts. Take one step at a time, instead of trying to tackle everything at once.
  8. Turn on some chill music or an inspirational podcast to help you deal with road rage.
  9. Take a break to pet the dog, hug a loved one or do something to help someone else.
  10. Exercise or get active.

 

 

SOURCES and FURTHER READING

  • American Heart Association ( https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health)
  • American Heart Association “Managing Stress” (https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/3-tips-to-manage-stress)
  • The American Institute of Stress ( https://www.stress.org/stress-and-heart-disease)
  • HealthFinder.com  (https://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/health-conditions-and-diseases/heart-health/manage-stress)
  • American Psychological Associations, Stressed in America  (https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america)