Whilst stress doesn’t directly cause coronary heart disease or heart attacks, if left unchecked it can lead to complications such as high blood pressure and unhealthy habits, increasing your risk over time.
It is estimated that 80% of premature deaths from heart attack or stroke are preventable by making healthy choices like eating well, keeping active and avoiding risky behaviour such as smoking.
For Stress Awareness Month take stock of your emotional and physical resilience and see what lifestyle changes you can make. Feel more empowered, better able to bounce back from stress and more resilient to the risks of heart disease through our healthy tips:
Get some kip
We all know that feeling of not being able to cope with life’s mishaps, especially when tired. Too little sleep can kick start the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin, driving up your heart rate and blood pressure. This can also disrupt and affect other hormones that help control your appetite, leading to unhealthy snacking. So before you go to bed, switch off your TV, computer and mobile phone, open a window, fluff up a good set of pillows, chill out to some soothing music and let your body get the seven to eight hours of the heart healthy slumber it needs.
Don’t skip it
Skipping meals will play havoc with your blood sugars, leaving you feeling lethargic, irritable and unable to think clearly. In this state you’re less likely to cope when that unforeseeable stressful work email pings through or one of your kids causes a tantrum. It’s important to have a good hearty breakfast of rolled oats, wholegrain toast or bran based cereal, to top up your energy for the day ahead and prevent you from starting the destructive cycle of snacking on high fat / sugar snacks.
It’s not a quick fix
Caffeine, sugar, alcohol, nicotine and other artificial stimulants like energy drinks provide a quick fix for many people but can ultimately leave you feeling anxious and depressed, disturb your sleep and cause risk to your heart. With plenty of advice available on how to quit smoking, drink sensibly and wise up on sugars why not see how much happier and healthier you will feel from ditching the bad habits? Connect with people through a fundraising event – by giving up your vices to help others, it will improve your mental wellbeing as well as motivate you to make healthier choices.
Clock up your energy levels
Being physically active for 150 minutes each week is not only a great physical resilience to heart disease but could improve your mental ability to rise to a challenge, through greater self-esteem and a sense of self control and purpose. You can break this up into manageable 10 minute intervals where you get out of your seat and do something that gets you warm and slightly out of breath. Start with a few stair climbs at lunchtime or an active commute by parking out of town. Even a spot of cleaning or DIY has been shown to improve mood and can clock up some minutes.
Turning a stressful situation into a positive one isn’t always possible but sticking your head in the sand certainly won’t make your problems disappear. Whilst exercising and eating healthy won’t make these things go away, they will help you have the stamina and mental capacity to deal with your problems calmly. So take charge of what you can change today and with support from your friends, family and GP, make steps towards a healthier, happier, longer life.