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Blog: How Stress Affects Your Heart

How Stress Affects Your Heart

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States. In fact, every 36 seconds, cardiovascular disease claims 1 more life in the United States. That’s roughly 3600 heart disease-related deaths every hour.

If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease or if you’ve had a heart attack, you probably know how important it is to watch what you eat and to try and get regular exercise. But what you might not know is that stress also plays a big role in heart health — and just like diet and exercise, it’s a factor you can control.

As a top-rated cardiology practice in Glendale, Goodyear, Anthem, Scottsdale, and Canyon City, Arizona, Phoenix Heart, PLLC, offers patient-centered, state-of-the-art care for patients with all types of heart disease. That includes medical interventions and lifestyle guidance aimed at helping every patient optimize their heart health at every stage of life. Here’s what our team wants you to know about the damaging effects of stress.

Stress and your heart

Acute stress is a natural reaction that prepares your body for the “fight-or-flight” response. In this acute reaction, your body releases hormones, including adrenaline, that speed up your heart rate and increase your blood pressure. As an infrequent event, acute stress is rarely harmful.

But chronic stress puts your body into a nearly continual state of anxiety and arousal. That means your heart rate remains elevated, along with your blood pressure. 

Chronic stress also interferes with sleep, a time when your heart heals itself. And it can lead to unhealthy eating habits that, in turn, can raise your blood pressure and your cholesterol levels — two major factors that contribute to heart attack and stroke.

In some people, chronic stress can lead to a condition called stress-induced cardiomyopathy or “broken-heart syndrome.” This condition causes your heart to weaken and enlarge temporarily, affecting the way your heart beats.

5 simple ways to manage stress

Stress definitely takes a big toll on your heart health, but fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce your stress and improve your heart health. 

#1: Learn breathing techniques

Breathing exercises are great for reducing stress because:

  • They don’t require special equipment (just your lungs!)
  • You can do them almost anywhere
  • They work

Most techniques focus on being aware of how you’re breathing. This site has a few tips for some basic breathing exercises to get you started.

#2: Carve out some “me” time

When you’re super busy, taking some time just for yourself can feel, well, selfish. But giving yourself a little alone time — ideally every day — is really important for decompressing and relieving stress. Spending time on a favorite hobby is one way to use your “me time”; here are a few other ideas.

#3: Get moving

Regular exercise releases “feel good” hormones that naturally relieve stress and improve your mood. You don’t have to run a marathon or be a pro athlete to tap into these benefits, either — just a little daily walking is all it takes. Or try biking, swimming, dancing, or even gardening.

#4: Embrace sleep hygiene

Good quality sleep is important for managing stress, but catching those Zs is extra hard when you’re already feeling anxious. You can help yourself to more restful sleep by establishing a good sleep routine. That includes things like:

  • Setting (and sticking to) a regular bedtime
  • Avoiding big meals, caffeine, and alcohol in the evening
  • Keeping electronics out of your bedroom
  • Reading or listening to calming music before sleep

You can find more tips here

#5: Cut online time

You might think browsing the internet is a good way to chill. But actually, research shows too much online time can wind up increasing your feelings of stress and anxiety. Set regular, limited time for internet use outside of work responsibilities, and find other, more engaging ways to spend your free time instead.

Make heart health a priority

Managing stress isn’t always easy — but any effort you make can yield big benefits for your heart (and your overall wellness, too). To learn what else you can do to keep your heart healthy — and how our team can help — book an appointment online or over the phone at Phoenix Heart, PLLC, today.

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