With the pandemic, war in Ukraine, and the highest inflation rate in four decades, it’s no surprise that Americans are more stressed-out than ever. Chronic stress isn’t purely a mental health concern either. It can also increase your risk for heart disease, a heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and even blood clots.
April is National Stress Awareness Month which makes it an ideal time to learn how to manage chronic stress and, in turn, protect the health of your heart.
Board Certified Cardiologist Dr. Yogesh Paliwal regularly sees the impact stress can have on heart health at his practice, Indus Cardiology which has offices in West Covina, Pomona, and Montclair, CA.
Stress is spiking
Over 80% of Americans are severely stressed about inflation and the invasion of Ukraine, according to a new survey from the American Psychological Association. That’s the highest number of people who’ve ever reported feeling stressed about any issue in the past 15 years, the study notes. Job stability, relationships, and personal health are among other common sources of stress.
Sometimes short-lived stress is productive; it can help you meet an important deadline. But chronic stress is unhealthy and can cause headaches, digestive issues, fatigue, and heart concerns.
How stress affects your heart
Stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, often referred to as the “stress hormone.” Studies suggest that high cortisol levels can increase LDL (bad cholesterol), triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure — all risk factors for heart disease.
Stress can also provoke poor lifestyle choices that increase your chance of developing cardiovascular disease, such as smoking, overeating, and lack of physical activity.
How can I manage stress?
Stress is an inevitable part of life, but you don’t have to let it harm your health. Here are steps you can take to keep anxiety in check.
- Don’t overcommit
- Stay connected to loved ones
- Schedule time to relax (read a book, listen to music, meditate, or take a bubble bath)
- Exercise daily
- Follow a heart-healthy diet
- Get adequate sleep (7-9 hours a night)
- Avoid alcohol and drugs
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to the news
- Seek help with a licensed mental health professional
Heed the warning signs
You only have one heart. If it’s sending stress signals such as chest pain or shortness of breath, don’t wait to seek help. Schedule a cardiology consultation with us today by calling the location most convenient to you.