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We've all experienced stress at some point in our lives. Sometimes this can be a good thing as it can make us perform better. But being stressed for a long period can spell trouble for heart health.
When we start to feel stressed, our body releases adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream, hormones that speed up our breathing, heart rate, drive up our blood pressure and supply extra energy to our muscles. Short term this can be ok. Long term, cortisol can affect cholesterol levels and blood pressure can remain high, putting the heart under pressure. When stressed, our lifestyle can also be affected so that we eat less well, drink more, exercise less and maybe smoke more.
Whether it’s work, home, finance, exams or a bereavement, we must take steps to minimise the impact of stress on our health and lifestyle and take control for our heart’s sake.
Stress busting tips for a healthy heart
- daily exercise can help to combat stress, keep your heart healthy and release those ‘endorphins’, the body’s natural chemicals that give a feeling of happiness
- music is good for the soul, so dig out your iPod, pop on a CD or tune into the radio and let music help you unwind
- take time out to relax after a hard day by burying yourself in a good book, soaking in a hot bath or even meditating, a technique that’s been around for thousands of years
- ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ so talk to friends or colleagues about the causes of your stress, you’ll be surprised how much of a difference it makes
- we all think we can take on the world, but remember that you have your limits so don’t take on too much. Make a list of jobs, tackle them one by one and reward yourself along the way
- laughter is good for you so tune into radio programmes and websites that make you chuckle, laugh a little or find a good joke book
- give your heart a rest by getting a good night’s sleep. Avoid food, alcohol and caffeine before bed as these can stop you from drifting off to sleep
We can’t always solve the causes of stress immediately, but adopting healthy lifestyle habits can be just what's needed to help protect your heart and your health.
For more information, download our ‘stress and the heart leaflet’ for extra tips on how to combat troublesome stress.