Can Managing Stress Reduce or Prevent Heart Disease?

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.

Although the link between stress and heart disease isn’t clear, as more research is needed to determine how stress contributes to heart disease — one of the leading causes of death in Canada — studies has found that stress can in fact affect behaviors and factors that increase a persons risk of heart disease such as high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity, and overeating. For example, some people may choose to drink too much alcohol or smoke cigarettes to “manage” their chronic stress, however these habits can increase blood pressure and may damage artery walls. In addition, our body’s response to stress can have a negative impact on our health by, for example, causing our heart rate to go up, preventing us from getting adequate sleep, and draining our energy, all of which can be problematic to our heart health.

Everyone feels stress in different ways and reacts to it in different ways. How much stress you experience and how you react to it can lead to a wide variety of health problems — and that’s why it’s critical to know what you can do about it. If you engage in negative behaviors when you get stressed out, it may mean that you are not dealing with your stress as well as you could. Figuring out how to deal with your stress is an important step in dealing with it. Here are some great tips that can be used to support better mental health and reduce stress:

Slow Down

  • Plan ahead and allow enough time to get the most important things done without having to rush.

Snooze More

  • Try to get six to eight hours of sleep each night. To fight insomnia, add mindfulness and activity.

Let Worry Go

  • The world won’t end if a few things fall off of your plate.  Give yourself a break and just breathe.

Laugh it Up

  • Laughter makes us feel good. Don’t be afraid to laugh out loud, even when you’re alone.

Get Connected

  • A daily dose of friendship in great medicine.  Make time to call friends and family so you can catch up.

Get Organized

  • Use “to do” lists to help you focus on your most important tasks, and take big projects one step at a time.

Practice Giving Back

  • Volunteer your time or spend time helping out a friend.  Helping others helps you.

Be Active Every Day

  • Exercise can relieve mental and physical tension.  Find something you think is fun and stick with it.

Give up Bad Habits

  • Too much alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine can increase blood pressure.  Cut back or quit to decrease anxiety.

Lean into Things you can Change

  • Make time to learn a new skill, work towards a goal, or to love and help others.
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