Stress can cause actual physical changes in your body. It can contribute to everything from high blood pressure to asthma to irritable bowel syndrome – and can even accelerate the aging process.
During intense stress, your body releases adrenaline, a hormone that temporarily increases your breathing and heart rate, and makes your blood pressure rise. These age-old reactions are meant to prepare a human to deal with a stressful situation, such as facing a hungry tiger. But in our day, these “fight or flight” responses put our bodies in high gear over situations that might not merit such a response.
Cortisol is another stress chemical that increases blood sugar levels, tells your body to hang on to excess fat and inhibits your immune system when released.
Maybe you’ve felt your blood pressure rise when you’re sitting in traffic or when you’re arguing with your teenager. If you’re constantly under stress your body can continue reacting as “fight or flight” for weeks or even months or years, damaging your heart and your cardiovascular health.
Managing stress is so important that I decided to make that my message at Girls’ Day Out on August 15. My talk, Stress: the Heaviest Weight on Your Heart will help you discover the connection between mind and body, and help you learn techniques to increase your ability to relax.
I routinely ask my patients about their stress and how they manage it. I engage them in finding ways to manage their stress through meditation, exercise, talk therapy or asking for help – whatever solutions fit their situation. Stress management is an integral part of preventing heart attacks and maintaining the health of your arteries and veins.
Here are some ideas to get you thinking about reducing your stress for the good of your heart. Learn more during my presentation at Girls’ Day Out (just being there will be a good step in taking care of you).
• Laugh more. It relaxes you, and it also burns calories.
• Reconnect with friends: True friends who support you and want the best for you.
• Eat high in fruits and vegetables and low in simple carbohydrates and processed foods.
• Find an activity that you’re passionate about and that brings joy into your life, even if you only have time for it once a week. Take up painting, singing, or walking on the beach.
• Meditate. Meditation, yoga and tai chi have been shown to lower stress hormones and improve your immune system. Meditation alone has been shown to lower blood pressure and decrease your risk of coronary artery disease.
Learn more about meditation and stress relief for your heart.