Top Ways To Reduce Stress
Stress. We all experience it, and everyone can benefit from reducing it. Stress can wreak havoc on your health – including your heart health. And reducing stress can go a long way to helping you prevent and maybe even reverse conditions that can lead to heart disease. So, what can you do to reduce your stress and save your heart?
Here are some tips for reducing stress that can have the added benefit of improving your heart health.
What You Can Do To Keep Your Heart Healthy And Happy
While you cant prevent stress, you can actively recognize your stress triggers and develop ways to cope with them in a healthful way. If you can identify the source of stress in your life, then you can deal with it appropriately, he says.
Coping with stress requires focusing on your emotional, but also spiritual and physical health. And to stay physically healthy, eating well and getting enough rest at night are key, and exercise is essential to manage emotional stress. Its a good stress on your heart that brings out the best in your body.
Stressful Experiences Are Hard To Avoid And Impossible To Predict But Taking Steps To Bolster Your Resilience May Help
The palpable stress stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic has made things once considered stressful such as deadlines or traffic jams seem pretty trivial in comparison. But while you may not be able to avoid the stressful situations that come your way, there are ways to mitigate your body’s response to those events.
So far, the evidence that stress management strategies can protect your heart is limited but growing. Yet there’s no doubt that stress contributes to heart problems. “The link between stress and cardiovascular disease is well established,” says cardiologist Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
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Stress Can Cause Broken Heart Syndrome Which Feels Like A Heart Attack
One of the most dramatic ways stress can affect your heart is by causing takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome.
This feels just like a heart attack, with symptoms including chest pain and shortness of breath, but it is a different condition altogether, says Lauren Gilstrap, MD, a cardiologist at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.
Those symptoms come on suddenly, triggered by a stressful emotional event, such as the sudden death of a loved one. Its presentation isnt subtle, Gilstrap says. People think theyre having a heart attack.
However, thats not the case. A heart attack occurs when an artery to the heart is blocked. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy has no underlying blockages. Its exact causes arent known but are thought to be tied to a sudden hormonal surge from the bodys fight or flight response.
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is a fundamentally different phenomenon than a heart attack, Gilstrap says. The arteries are completely fine and the blood supply is completely normal, but all of a sudden, the heart doesnt squeeze.
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is most common in women aged 58 to 75, who make up more than 90% of cases. Doctors arent entirely sure why, but one study found that women experience higher rates of emotional stress. About 5% of women who think theyre having a heart attack are actually experiencing stress-induced cardiomyopathy.
Stress Management How To Deal
There are many techniques for minimizing your response to stress:
- Autogenic training.
- Progressive muscle relaxation.
- Challenging unhelpful thought patterns.
For maximum efficacy, these techniques should be supported by othergood health behaviors.
Getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising makes us feel morearmed and ready, says Dr. Fisher.
Whatever stress management techniques you choose, you will need topractice them regularly to prevent stress from building up.
It must become part of your daily routine, like bathing orbrushing your teeth, says Dr. Fisher. But think of the benefits. Once thestress is gone, whos to say another huge stressor will never happen again? Atleast youll have the tools to prevent it from taking a detrimental toll onyour health.
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Ways To Manage Stress And Help Your Heart
Want to turn your stress around and help your heart in the process? Try these five simple tips.
Stay positive. People with heart disease who maintain an upbeat attitude are less likely to die than those who are more negative, according to research. Just having a good laugh can help your heart. Laughter has been found to lower levels of stress hormones, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and increase “good” HDL cholesterol.
Meditate. This practice of inward-focused thought and deep breathing has been shown to reduce heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure. Anyone can learn to meditate. Just take a few minutes to sit somewhere quiet, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Meditation’s close relatives, yoga and prayer, can also relax the mind and body.
Exercise. Every time you are physically active, whether you take a walk or play tennis, your body releases mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins. Exercising not only melts away stress, but it also protects against heart disease by lowering your blood pressure, strengthening your heart muscle, and helping you maintain a healthy weight.
Unplug. It’s impossible to escape stress when it follows you everywhere. Cut the cord. Avoid emails and TV news. Take time each dayeven if it’s for just 10 or 15 minutesto escape from the world.
Find your own path to stress relief. Take a bubble bath, listen to music, or read a book. Any technique is effective if it works for you.
Tracking Stress In The Whoop Journal
The WHOOP Journal feature gives you the option each morning to log if you experienced stress the day before. By doing this, we can examine the effect your stress may have on metrics we track, like resting heart rate , heart rate variability , recovery, and duration of each stage of sleep.
Every month, you then get an analysis of how stress can affect your WHOOP data via our Monthly Performance Assessments.
In this case, weve taken a look at the aggregate data of WHOOP members reporting stress. As you might expect, weve found it often has negative correlations with several key physiological markers.
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Your Bodys Response To Stress May Be:
- A headache
- Wreak havoc on your sleep
- Make you feel cranky, forgetful or out of control
A stressful situation sets off a chain of events. Your body releases adrenaline, a hormone that temporarily causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. These reactions prepare you to deal with the situation the fight or flight response.
Stress And Heart Health
Whats stressful to one person isnt for another. Happy events and unhappy events can cause stress.
Everyone feels and reacts to stress in different ways. How much stress you experience and how you react to it can lead to a wide variety of health problems and thats why its critical to know what you can do about it.
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Your Emotions And Your Heart Health
For worse or better, your emotional well-being affects your physical health. The emotions you experience, like joy and stress, affect on whats going on in your body, too. Emotional variations are healthy for the heart, Dr. Bhatheja says, but when a negative one becomes consistent, it can take a toll on many major organs, including your heart.
Unstable emotional situations, like a state of stress, can affect hemodynamics and hormones in the body, which affect blood pressure and heart rate, Dr. Bhatheja says, and that can directly affect your cardiovascular health, and your brain and kidneys, as well.
Can Stress Lead To A Heart Attack
Many people underestimate the impact that stress can have on the body, especially the heart.
Take a moment to view the American Heart Association video about what may seem like a typical morning family routine:
This portrayal may seem a little over the top, but many of us take pride in being able to accomplish a multitude of tasks and trying to be everything to everyone, impacting us emotionally and physically.
Although several traditional risk factors for coronary artery disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity, affect women and men, other factors can play a bigger role in the development of heart disease in women.
Specific heart disease risk factors specific to women include:
Research is ongoing in other heart disease risk factors in women.
Is heart disease something only older women should worry about?
Women of all ages should take heart disease seriously. Women under 65, and especially those with a family history of heart disease, need to pay close attention to heart disease risk factors.
What are the differences of heart disease symptoms in women?
Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain.
Mental stress may often trigger these symptoms, which could include:
- Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in one or both arms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unusual fatigue
Don’t wait until it’s too late
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Positive Stress And Your Heart
When you go for a run, stress hormones trigger your heart to pump faster and harder, which increases the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, so they can perform. And if a car pulls out in front of you on the road, within a fraction of a second, your stress hormones and heart work together to trigger a series of lightning-speed reactions that enhance your ability to swerve out of the way.
These reactionary situations arent the only ones where temporary stress can be healthy. If youre just starting your career or growing a family, those are positive types of stress, says Dr. Bhatheja. If youre supporting a loved one after a loss, youre stressed, but youre helping them. Its point-in-time stress that brings the best out of you, Dr. Bhatheja explains.
How To Manage Stress And Reduce Your Heart Attack Risk
Reducing and managing stress through mindfulness, exercise, and hobbies is an important part of overall health, and it may improve cardiac health.
However, making lifestyle changes to reduce stress is extremely difficult for people. Because of that, Gilstrap recommends her patients take a realistic look at the stressors in their lives and adjust what they can, without worrying too much about whats out of their control.
Life is complicated and people have demands from a variety of places, Gilstrap says. Its about fixing the ones that can be fixed, building on that success, and empowering the patient to make even more positive change in that direction.
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How Does Stress Affect The Heart
Stress that goes unmanaged can cause the following health conditions that also impact your heart health:
How Dangerous Is Stress For Our Heart Health
Its been dubbed a modern plague but just how serious a health risk is stress? After all, weve all heard people say things like, Calm down, youre going to give yourself a heart attack! Heres a look at how stress might affect your heart:
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How A Stressor Can Affect The Heart And Trigger Another Attack
When your body encounters any type of stressor, it immediately activates the NeuroEndoMetabolic Stress Response System. The NEM stress response system is made up of six interconnected circuits including the Cardionomic, Hormone, Bioenergetics circuit, Neuroaffective, Inflammation, and Detoxification Circuits.
The heart is part of the Cardionomic Circuit and the circuit responds to stress by bringing your heart rate up. Moreover, blood pumps more vigorously throughout your system and your breathing rate gets quicker. The goal is to give you the best possible chance of escaping the threat or putting up a good fight.
At the same time, your heart interacts with hormones produced by the adrenal glands as part of the Hormone Circuit. The moment your body perceives stress, the adrenals respond by producing the primary stress hormone cortisol, along with norepinephrine and adrenaline.
When stress is detected, the adrenals secrete more cortisol, which directly affects the heart. Once cortisol is released and enters the circulatory system, your blood vessels narrow in order to increase blood flow. Cortisol also ensures energy produced by the mitochondria of the cardiac muscle is available to be used immediately instead of stored. This means your heart is now forced to pump harder, essentially increasing your cardiac workload.
Stress And Resting Heart Rate
Overall, 60% of the time our members input experiencing stress it results in an increase in resting heart rate . The average is an uptick of 1 beat per minute . Considering the fact that RHR is generally a fairly stable metric, this is a sizable deviation from the norm. At the 25th percentile, the rise is 2 beats per minute.
Males and females see similar changes in resting heart rate due to stress, as do most age groups. However, it is worth noting that the frequency with which RHR is negatively impacted increases subtly with age. For 29 and under it happens on 58% of occasions, for ages 30-49 its 60%, and for 50-59 its 64% of the time.
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The Solution For Irregular Heartbeat
The irregular heartbeat/skipped beat is usually fairly instant. The rapid heartbeat that tends to follow can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour depending on how you react to it. Panic attacks are often the biggest issue to worry about. If your skipped beat causes a panic attack, it may take you quite a while to feel fully “calm” again.
Because these rhythms can have different causes, there’s no one size fits all way of treating it. If it’s caused by adrenaline, you simply have to wait for your adrenaline levels to die down and your heartbeat will go back to normal. Once they’re in your body they’ll only stop when they’re used up.
If they’re caused by hyperventilation, the key is to simply make sure they don’t get any worse. As hard as you can, try not to compensate for your skipped beat by trying to breathe in too quickly or too much to “test” your heart. A very common reaction is taking huge breaths to make sure that your body gets enough air. But these breaths may make hyperventilation worse and cause more anxiety that leads to further symptoms.
In general, when it comes to a rapid heartbeat, the most important thing to do is simply give yourself time to relax. Walking may help a bit to calm you down, but there are otherwise very few things to do to stop the feeling of an irregular heartbeat once it starts. However, if you take steps to treat your underlying anxiety more generally, youll be less likely to experience irregular heartbeats in the first place.
How To Cope With Stress
If you experience symptoms of stress, taking the proper steps to manage it could have many health benefits. Effective coping strategies include:
- Spending time with family and friends
- Practising calming techniques, such as yoga, deep breathing or tai chi
- Exercising regularly
- Getting an adequate amount of sleep
- Setting aside time for hobbies or relaxing activities, such as listening to music or reading a book
In todays fast-paced world, stress is common but your mind and body can pay a steep price if it is not kept in check. Handling stress correctly may help you feel happier and healthier in the long run. To learn more ways that stress can affect your overall health.
Dr Jeena Devasia, DDS, earned her undergraduate degree from Virginia Commonwealth University . She has participated in multiple Mission of Mercy projects and is a dentist at McLean DDS.
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The Best Exercise For Your Heart
The key to good cardiac exercise is to increase your heart rate, keep it a bit high for two to three minutes, and then slow down, like you would on a treadmill. This intentional up-and-down heart rate is what your heart likes, Dr. Bhatheja says.
And if you dont have time for any exercise, walking is better than doing nothing, he says. If you have a busy job but still want to exercise your heart, the common-sense approach is to walk 20-30 minutes a day, at least three to five days a week, he explains.
Speed-walking is best. If you dont have a major lung or cardiac disease, walk with an intensity that leaves you short of breath and unable to hold a conversation. Then, you are pushing your heart to a good extent. Its a simple measure of sufficient exercise.
If you enjoy relaxation techniques, stretching and quiet reflection are excellent ways to reduce stress.