Each and every year, approximately one in three Americans dies from heart disease or stroke, yet many of the deaths are preventable through lifestyle changes. In the UK we are, unfortunately, following very closely behind the Americans with our health problems. A poor diet, lack of exercise, and tobacco use are all crucial factors in the risk of heart disease, but another important factor is managing stress. The link between stress and heart disease is not clear; however, recent good quality research has shown that stress can lead to physiological responses which are associated with heart disease. When faced with a stressful time, the body will release hormones that cause a rise in heart rate and increase in blood pressure (a raise in cardiac output); if you were to experience these effects regularly then damage may occur to arteries. Additionally if stress isn’t managed properly, it can lead to unhealthy behaviors that also raise the risk of you developing heart disease. These lifestyle factors include smoking, increased alcohol use, overeating, or lack of exercise and a sedentary life. Stress can also cause poor quality of sleep whether through aches and pains, or anxiety. Lack of sleep is associated with many factors of heart disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and an irregular heart beat. Stress can also play a clear role is tension headaches, cervicogenic headaches and triggering a migraine.
Much of the stress of normal daily life are hard to avoid. Your children will need constant care, people get sick and need support, and jobs need to be completed. Learning to manage stress levels effectively can reduce the negative effects of stress on the body and help you to develop a more healthy lifestyle. To help manage stress effectively and lower your risk of heart disease, remember to:
- Breathe deeply. When faced with an immediate stressful situation, take a few minutes to breathe. Try to take deep, slow breaths and breathe from your tummy, using the diaphragm to breathe rather than raising and lowering your rib cage. Raising your ribs is panting and is not efficient breathing.
- Move! Moving and exercising releases endorphins (natural painkillers), which can help you feel good. Physical activity is a fantastic way to release tension in your muscles and soothe the aches, pains and tension of stress. Removing yourself from a stressful situation to take a walk is also a great way to allow your mind to relax.
- Relax and unwind. You can sit quietly, read a book, or do some yoga or pilates. Taking time out of your busy day to just stop and relax is important, however long your to-do list of “really important” things is!
- Schedule Fun! Quality time with family and loved ones is a great way to manage the effects of your stress. Try to talk through difficult situations or just relax and laugh it off.
- Receive regular best chiropractic care. The harmful effects of stress on the body include muscle tension and contraction, which can lead to misalignments of the spine. A Chiropractor has the skill to detect and adjust these misalignments, which if removed, will reduce body ache and pains and help the body function more optimally.
Suffering from stress may be unavoidable, but the negative effects are not. Learn to deal with stress effectively to reduce the damaging effects on the body and reduce the risk of heart disease.