Heart Health & Stress
August 8, 2010
By: Stacy Sawyer
In today's fast-paced world filled with increasing demands, it's important to manage your stress level.
While stress is not a confirmed risk factor for high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, some people cope with stress by overeating or eating unhealthy foods, smoking, drinking, and other activities that raise their risk for heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure.
The American Heart Association offers 10 attitude changes to help you learn to be mindful about stressful situations and how you might change what is within your power to change.
As part of the association's 2020 impact goal to improve the health of all Americans, the American Heart Association recently identified seven health factors and lifestyle behaviors that support heart health. Visit www.heart.org/MyLifeCheck to see where your heart health rates and learn the steps to take for a longer and stronger life.
10 attitudes for reducing stress
1. You can't control all the outside events in your life, but you can change how you handle them emotionally and psychologically. Try to learn to accept things you can't change. You don't have to solve all of life's problems.
2. Relaxing is important, even if you are busy. Take 15 to 20 minutes a day to sit quietly, breathe deeply and think of a peaceful picture.
3. Practice gratitude. Change how you respond to difficult situations, focusing on the positive, not the negative. Expressing gratitude to others can also boost your level of feeling good about life and reduce stressful thoughts.
4. Know your stress triggers. Think ahead about what may upset you. Some things you can avoid. For example, spend less time with people who bother you or avoid driving in rush-hour traffic.
5. Think about problems under your control and make a plan to solve them. You could talk to your boss about difficulties at work, talk with your neighbor if his dog bothers you or get help when you have too much to do.
6. Learn to say "no." Don't promise too much. Reduce the amount of tension by having a shorter list of items that must be done. This may require you to reevaluate priorities and make difficult choices, but everyone must learn to live within manageable limits.
7. Give yourself enough time to get things done. Margins work wonders for reducing stress. Don't try to pack too much into every moment.
8. Give yourself the gift of good self care. Engage in physical activity regularly. Do what you enjoy; walk, swim, ride a bike or jog to get your big muscles going. Letting go of the tension in your body will help you feel better. Limit alcohol, don't overeat and don't smoke. Relaxing for short periods during your workday, at night and on weekends may help lower your blood pressure. Another great stress-buster is to get regular physical activity, as recommended by the American Heart Association.
9. Know what brings you pleasure and find ways to enjoy the experience. Perhaps you enjoy volunteer opportunities or cooking your favorite foods. By taking time not only to participate in these activities but to intentionally enjoy them, you can build a satisfying life rather than hurry through your "relaxing activities" at a stressful pace.
10. Spend time developing supportive and nurturing relationships. We all need supportive and encouraging relationships. Invest yourself in developing relationships that build character and foster growth.
Communications Director -- American Heart Association
I invite your questions and feedback
Stacy Sawyer is the Director of Communications for the American Heart Association. She can be reached at (989) 225-7513.
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