Putting Your Health First
For more information about stress management, please call us at 214.820.3648.
Managing stress is an important and often overlooked component to heart and vascular health—and health in general. It is crucial to maintaining physical and emotional health, and is particularly crucial in regard to heart and vascular health.
Stress affects the body in many ways, including constricting arteries and veins and increasing blood pressure. Chronic stress increases your breathing rate and impairs your immune system, which makes you more vulnerable to disease of all kinds, including heart disease.
What To Avoid
There are certain behaviors that are known to increase stress levels and are thus good to avoid whenever possible. These behaviors include:
- Drinking too much alcohol;
- Drinking too much caffeine, as it increases your blood pressure and heart rate;
- Smoking tobacco of any kind, which raises blood pressure and heart rate, and decreases the amount of oxygen that reaches your heart;
- Eating high-fat and high-sodium foods, which can increase your blood pressure;
- Frequently engaging in a frantic pace of life, which is common in this age of technology; and
- Bottling up your feelings.
There are some simple ways you can re-organize and start on the path to lowering stress. First come two of the pillars of good health: exercise and eating a balanced diet. Studies show that exercise can alleviate depression in some people, and that many nutrients are necessary for the correct functioning of brain chemistry. There are some other strategies as well, such as deep breathing and meditation; breathing slowly and deeply from the diaphragm helps to create a sense of calm, as well as helps to detoxify the body, and sitting still and straight and focusing on your breathing may help your mind and body to relax.
Keeping a journal often allows you to sort through issues and move forward—writing down your thoughts and feelings can be energizing and liberating. Similarly, support groups and therapy allow the opportunity to share with others who understand or can provide insight about your unique situation. Finally, never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep.
Physical and physiological changes that occur with stress:
- Increased anxiety;
- Increased irritability;
- Increased hostility;
- Increased occurrences of the "blahs;"
- Increased feelings of depression;
- Decreased energy;
- Disrupted sleep patterns;
- Changed eating habits;
- Poor concentration, increased mistakes;
- Decreased interest in usual activities;
- Emotional outbursts;
- Teeth grinding;
- Poor hygiene;
- Muscle tension, aches;
- Upset digestive system;
- Increased blood pressure;
- Increased cholesterol;
- Rashes, hives, blisters;
- Increased pain; and
- Weakened immune system.
We are here to help you succeed and decrease stress levels, thereby improving your cardiovascular health. Here are some tips to help you cope with stress:
- Laughter is good medicine. Studies show that humor reduces pain and increases productivity. It can relieve the tension and stress that builds up during the day, decrease depression and anxiety, and the endorphins that are released boost the immune system.
- Replacing negative or critical thoughts with positive ones can increase self-esteem and decrease the risk of depression.
- After a cardiovascular event or procedure, avoiding social isolation can improve physical outcomes. Don't be afraid to let the people around you know what you need, and try to have realistic expectations of yourself and others.
- Schedule break times throughout busy days—studies show that taking a few minutes to recharge helps with concentration and productivity. Go on relaxing vacations and weekend getaways whenever possible.
- Planning ahead reduces the stress of procrastination and helps to balance the demands of life, work, and family. At the same time, live in the moment; spend time with family and friends, get a pet, explore hobbies and interests, listen to music, see a good movie, read a book, garden, volunteer, and play games.
- Learning how to say "no" is also a skill. Although it is healthy to help others, it can become stressful when you try to please everyone.
- Engaging in deep breathing—6 breaths per minute for 3 to 5 minutes.
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