For your heart’s sake, make it a priority to keep your stress in check.
“Stress is a known factor for poor cardiac health,” says cardiologist Anuj Shah, MD, founder of Apex Heart and Vascular Care in Passaic, NJ.
High levels of stress can lead to high blood pressure, hypertension, some heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias), and artery damage. When you’re under a lot of stress, you’re also more likely to do things that raise your risk of heart disease and stroke, such as smoking, drinking too much, overeating, drug use, and not being active.
By taking steps to manage stress, you may lower your risk of heart problems.
Keep the Big Picture in Mind
As annoying or heavy as the problems you’re dealing with right now might seem, stress comes and goes. It can shape-shift, taking different forms and cropping up in different situations tomorrow than what’s on your mind today.
But you have the power to decide how you handle it. There are simple things you can do that help. “Focusing on your physical, emotional, and psychological well-being helps keep it under control,” Shah says.
Start with these stress-busting building blocks.
- Eat a good-for-you diet. It will give you the nutrients you need to help stay well. You probably know the basics: more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein, and less saturated fat and added sugar.
- Exercise on most days. When you’re under pressure, it’s easy to blow this off. But even a little activity helps.
- Make good sleep a priority. Most people need 7-8 hours.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make your daily schedule more manageable. This will mean prioritizing what’s most important and letting go of trying to get everything done.
- Take time every day for relaxation. Even a few minutes count. For instance, you could meditate, listen to music, get outside, or spend time with people who make you feel good.
- Talk about your stress with someone you trust: a loved one, friend, or therapist.
Identify Your Triggers
Tune into what gives you stress so you can manage it better. Is it work? Relationships? Lack of time?
You may be able to avoid certain things. But some sources of stress are beyond your control. You’ll need strategies to deal with those. Try a class, read books on stress management, and keep in mind that a professional therapist may help.