We know that eating right and staying active are important to living well with heart disease. But stress management is just as vital. Why? Because stress isn’t only a feeling. It has tangible physical impacts, too.
When we feel stress, hormones like cortisol increase. In a given moment, this can be useful. But sustained stress can lower our body’s ability to fight disease, raise our blood pressure and elevate cholesterol. The good news is, there are a lot of ways to reduce our daily stress.
Stress Reduction for Cardiac Patients
Here are five ways to ease stress and anxiety, and improve your overall health:
- Engage with friends. Spending time with those closest to you (from people to pets) releases oxytocin, which counteracts cortisol. And it works whether you’re hanging out in person, on the phone or in a video conference room.
- Enjoy yourself. Having fun can feel indulgent, but it’s good for you. When we’re enjoying ourselves, our blood pressure can go down and cortisol decreases. We also feel more satisfied with our lives, an important factor of emotional well-being.
- Get the giggles. It may sound silly, but the CDC says that smiling and laughing lower blood pressure and protects our hearts. Any activity that gets you giggling is good for you.
- Increase mindfulness. Even a few minutes of calm can reduce stress, according to the CDC. Find a comfortable, quiet location to sit or walk while focusing on your breathing or the good things in your life. Want more? Do a quick internet search for meditation apps or mindfulness meetings in your area.
- Control what you can. Many of us worry about things we can’t control. Talk to your doctor about the risks associated with your condition and — instead of worrying about them — take action. For example, wearing a medical alert bracelet ensures vital information is available to others in an emergency.
Reducing stress is a good idea for everyone, especially people living with heart conditions. Talk to your primary care provider to understand how stress impacts your health and to explore stress management activities that are right for you.
Don’t disregard professional medical advice, or delay seeking it, because of what you read here. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional consultation, diagnosis or treatment; it is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, express or implied. Always consult a healthcare provider if you have specific questions about any medical matter, and seek professional attention immediately if you think you or someone in your care may be experiencing a healthcare condition or medical emergency.
1CDC – National Diabetes Prevention Program – Post-Core: Stress and Time Management.
https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/pdf/posthandout_session12.pdf. January 3, 2022.
2CDC – What You Can Do Right Now – Stress. https://www.cdc.gov/howrightnow/resources/coping-with-stress/index.html. January 3, 2022.