February is American Heart Month, so why not take advantage of it and take the time to learn about your heart and the effect that stress can have on it? We all feel stressed at some point in our lives, and statistics show stress can have a negative effect on heart health, including an increased risk for heart disease. Stress creates a response in the body's nervous system similar to "fight or flight," and it can cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as slowed digestion and weight gain. These conditions can all increase your risk for heart disease. The good news is there are a number of ways to manage stress and eliminate the damaging long-term side effects that might come with it.
Types of Stress
- Acute Stress–Acute stress comes on quickly, but does not last and is less likely to have serious health effects.
- Chronic Stress–Chronic stress is persistent, long-term, or recurring stress and is more likely to play a role in health problems.
There are several ways to manage stress, and most of them are simple changes you can make on your own.
- Get to the root of the problem–Find out what is causing your stress, and eliminate the cause. If a busy schedule is to blame, figure out some time management strategies and put them into place.
- Kick the habit–You may think that smoking helps to calm the stress in life, but it actually does the opposite. Nicotine is a stimulant, and can bring about more symptoms of stress.
- Add relaxation to your day–No matter how busy your day may seem, you have to make time for some relaxation. Whether it is a bubble bath when you get home or a quiet walk on your lunch break, finding time to escape the commotion is essential to relieving stress.
- Get moving–Exercise allows the body to release "feel-good" chemicals called endorphins. In addition, exercising will allow you to take your mind off whatever the root cause of your stress is.
- Watch what you eat–Drive-through fast-food meals and alcoholic drinks are not going to combat a stressful day at work, as much as you may like to believe they will. Abusing food will contribute to stress, not reduce it. Following a healthy diet will give you energy, making you feel better and more capable of handling daily stressors.
- Have fun–Don't forget about friends, family and fun. A solid support group of friends and family will be there when you need to talk or need something to take your mind off daily stress.
- Catch some Zzzs–Lack of sleep can make it harder to deal with the physical and psychological affects of stress. Adults should get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night.
Managing stress can be as a simple as a making a few changes to your lifestyle and daily routine, but sometimes it can require a doctor's help. To learn more about managing stress, visit us online at Medical Center of Lewisville or give us a call at 972-420-1000.