Stress is a pervasive component of the human experience. While often considered adversity to be ignored, chronic stress has important pathological consequences, including cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Stress can increase inflammation in your body, which in turn is linked to factors that can harm your heart, such as high blood pressure and lower 'good' HDL cholesterol.
Chronic stress can also affect your heart in a more indirect way. When you're worried, you tend to sleep poorly. You're also less likely to exercise, make healthy food choices, or watch your weight. All of these lifestyle changes can put your heart health at risk.
How to protect your heart
- Get professional advice: Discuss your stress levels with your healthcare provider. This is especially important if you have other risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity or high blood pressure.
- Get regular exercise: Exercise is a great tool for heart health and overall well-being. It can also lower stress and lift your mood. Aim to get at least 30–60 minutes of exercise most days of the week. If you don't know how to start, ask your doctor for some recommendations.
- Socialize: When you have a stressful day, taking a break to walk with friends over lunch can take your mind away from the grind. Spending time with supportive family and friends can help you decompress. It can also provide you with support when you're going through a particularly stressful period.
- Try relaxation techniques: Mindfulness activities, deep breathing, aromatherapy, massage, meditation, or yoga practices. Relaxation techniques are an effective way to ease stress. They can help lower your blood pressure and heart rate and make you feel calmer.