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Here are tips for managing stress so it doesn’t affect your heart – physically and emotionally.

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We all deal with stress sometimes – it’s a normal part of life. But many people experience stress on a regular basis and that’s not okay. If you have a lot of stress in your life, it’s important to find ways to manage it because not only is chronic stress bad for your emotional health, it’s also bad for your heart.

Unhealthy levels of stress hormones can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. Stress may also contribute to increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as diabetes. Additionally, stress can negatively affect your weight and is often the root cause of unhealthy behaviors that increase heart disease risks, such as smoking and drinking.

“Coping with life stressors can be difficult. If you are feeling overwhelmed, having relationship problems, or unable to keep up with work responsibilities due to stress, please contact your physician or mental health provider.”

-Lara M. Falcon, MD, Internal Medicine 

So, how do you not let stress get in the way of your heart health?

  • Care for yourself. Think of the instructions you get on an airplane – you have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help others. But many people, especially women, tend to everyone else in their lives first – children, aging parents, partners and employers. That often leaves you feeling like you don’t have enough time to care for yourself or you feel guilty doing so. But you should. Taking care of yourself is not only good for you, but it helps you take care of everything else in your life better.
  • Create a stress-busting bag of tricks. It’s also a good idea to be prepared with things that help you handle stressful situations. Writing in a journal, squeezing a stress ball, taking a walk, meditating or spending time in nature are some ideas. Keep in mind that what works for one person may not work for another. Even something that works for you in one instance may not be effective when circumstances change. Experiment with different ways to manage stress to see what works best for you.
  • Practice healthy habits. You can manage stress proactively with healthy lifestyle habits such as exercising, eating right and getting enough sleep. You may be surprised by what a good night’s sleep or a quick run after work can do to help you relax. Eating healthy foods rather than simple sugars and starches can help keep your blood sugar levels more stable, which may leave you better prepared to deal with the ups and downs of everyday life.

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Date Last Reviewed: October 18, 2019

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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