Stress is a heavy part of life. It’s strong enough to find its way into any part of your day, whether that be your work or personal life. Stress shows itself in a variety of ways for different people. It has the potential to make itself known through a simple headache, forgetfulness, or even feelings of lack of control. However, it also has the potential to show itself through even more serious side effects such as lack of sleep, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, or high blood pressure. No matter the role stress has in your life, it consistently has a negative effect on your whole body - most importantly, your heart.
In high stress situations, your body releases a hormone called adrenaline which results in rapid increases and decreases in breathing patterns and heart speed. The production of adrenaline is often due to high-stress situations or lifestyles. Consistent amounts of stress are a contributing factor in the development of heart issues, including high blood pressure. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure occurs when blood vessels become damaged as the heart is forced to work too hard to pump blood through arteries. Coupled with cholesterol buildup due to poor eating habits, high blood pressure is often how our bodies show that they are experiencing too much stress.
Not only this, but stress continues to affect different corners of our lives even after it’s made itself known in the form of high blood pressure or other heart issues. It affects how much we eat, how often we may need to use the bathroom, how much alcohol we consume, or why we decide to start smoking. Different from anxiety, which in some situations may require medication to successfully treat, stress can be dealt with head on in a variety of ways. So how can you manage your stress levels in healthy ways that don’t hinder your heart health?
Don’t keep stress bottled up - talk it out.
Sharing why your work day was stressful or why you had a bad day with a family member or friend gives you an opportunity to allow stress to leave your body. Not only that, but you’re able to find solutions and calming reassurance by talking through your situation with a trusted friend or family member.
Channel stress through physical activity.
Don’t let stress point you in the direction of picking up bad habits like smoking, excessive alcohol use, or a reliance on food as a comfort source. Stress finds a successful outlet in routine physical activity, whether that be joining fitness classes, regular jogging and walking, or discovering a yoga practice. When your energy goes toward physical activity, your body is too busy utilizing large muscle groups to remember what was causing it stress.
Change aspects of your life that you can control.
Show stress who’s boss. By changing portions of life you can control, you force stress to take a backseat. Maybe it’s taking an active dive into finding a new job that’s less stressful or downloading an app on your phone or tablet that shows how to properly meditate for a good night’s sleep – the decisions you make today will have a direct impact on your overall health.
Everyone deals with stress in some shape or form, but keep in mind how important it is to keep stressful situations in perspective. Remember to laugh, change the portions of life you have control of, and to use physical activity as a healthy way to cope with stress. Your body, mind, and heart will soon feel the positive difference.
For more information on how to improve heart health or maintain a healthy heart contact UnityPoint Clinic Cardiology at (563) 589-2557.