Stress and Heart Health: How the Mind and Heart Work Together as One

It goes without saying that we live a stressful life. But are we effectively managing our stress? Feeling stressed all the time can also result in heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pain, or irregular heartbeats. And if you’re dealing with stress in unhealthy ways, such as smoking, overeating, or alcohol consumption – that makes matters worse! While stress is inevitable in our lives, what we do about it can make all the difference to our health and heart. 

While a healthy diet and exercise can improve heart health, managing stress and keeping our mental health in check can also contribute to a healthy heart. So, let’s look at the causes of stress and the strong link between stress and heart health. 

Stress: How the mind affects the heart

Any change that creates physical, emotional, or psychological strain can result in a stressful condition. Stress is a feeling of physical and emotional tension caused by the reaction of your body and mind to a threat or a challenge. 

Stress can raise inflammation in the body, which is connected to factors that might negatively impact  your heart, such as increased blood pressure and lowering “good” HDL cholesterol.

Stress can be of two types depending on the causative factors and these are called acute stress and chronic stress.

Acute stress is when you experience stress for a short period of time – for example, an argument with someone, a dog barking at you, or being stuck in a traffic jam. Our body is built to swiftly recover from short-term stress. For a brief time, your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and muscular tension levels may all soar. You recover to normal levels/calm down once the cause is eliminated. 

Chronic stress is when you’re experiencing high-stress levels for a long period of time. It is usually caused by long-term problems such as financial worry, unhappy marriages, or career issues. Chronic stress raises your resting heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and muscular tension over time, requiring your body to work even more at rest to keep you functioning normally. Chronic stress occurring over a long time can lead to health problems in the future. 

Heart diseases caused by stress

While a certain amount of stress is beneficial to your health, chronically high-stress levels might increase your risk of severe heart conditions. When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to smoke, consume alcohol, or eat meals heavy in salt, sugar, and fat, all of which are unhealthy for your heart.

Here are the effects of high stress on your heart: 

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased inflammation in your body
  • Increased cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood
  • Irregular heart rate and rhythm
  • Reduced blood flow to the heart

There is, however, some good news! Even though stress can contribute to heart disease, there are a few lifestyle choices that can help you live a longer and healthier life.

Overcoming stress and improving heart health together

You don’t want to turn a blind eye to your stress. Instead, you must concentrate on managing or strengthening resilience in the face of unavoidable stress.

So, if you’re wondering how to control stress, here are some tips! 

  • Exercise, exercise, exercise!

We cannot “stress” this enough. Working out is one of the best ways to reduce stress levels andit also keeps your heart healthy! Working out releases happy hormones that can have stress-busting benefits. The workout can be of your choice including hitting the gym, swimming, yoga, cardio or weight training. However, a simple walk in nature can also do wonders for you!

  • Practising Meditation 

 Meditation can help you have a healthier heart. Practising meditation for just 10 minutes can improve heart rate, decrease stress, lower blood pressure and calm your body and mind.

  • Taking a well-deserved break 

Stress can build up in your body if you don’t address it. Take a break from your busy schedule and spend time with friends and family or even indulge in a hobby. Letting loose once in a while will give your body an opportunity to reset, repair, and cope with the stressors of daily life.

  • Changing your diet 

As per research, “Eating a healthy diet can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body.” An unhealthy diet consisting of high amounts of sodium, sugar and fat will increase inflammation which is unhealthy for your heart.

When choosing ingredients to maintain a healthy diet it is important to understand the consequences on your body. 

For example, the kind of cooking oil you use can have a significant impact on your overall health. You can opt for a cooking oil like Saffola Gold which has a good balance of MUFA and PUFA which are healthy fats required for better nutrition. Additionally, it is rich in antioxidants that can help keep your heart healthy. Practising stress management is good for your heart and overall health. 

We hope these tips can help you on your journey to a stress-free life! That being said, if you find it difficult to manage your stress, do consult a doctor and get professional advice.

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