Ongoing or sudden life circumstances, such as divorce, family conflict, personal disaster or the death of a loved one, have been linked to heart attacks and heart failure. Persistent stress can diminish or prevent healing.
When the body is under stress, it releases a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol signals the nervous system to increase heart rate and blood pressure for the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. In the short-term cortisol is good, powering the body when it is needed the most. But in the long-term, ongoing stress can contribute to high blood pressure and can cause stress in other parts of the body as well.
Along with increasing the risk of heart attack and blood clots, high blood pressure can also increase the risk for heart failure. Narrowed and hardened vessels require the heart to work harder to pump blood to the body. To meet the demand, the heart gets larger and pumps faster. With the heart working harder than it should and beyond its capabilities, in time, a person could experience fatigue, shortness of breath and an inability to accomplish daily activities – all symptoms of heart failure.
How to Manage Holiday Stress
Stress can be of different levels. Stress associated with deadlines and obligations can help motivate people to accomplish tasks but chronic stress is caused by extreme ongoing struggles, along with lack of control or meaning.
The key to managing stress during the holidays is setting realistic expectations. Being with the family and enjoying the time with them is important. It is also necessary to let go of the things that add stress and no joy.
Increase Physical Exercise
Find a workout routine that works for you. This can include going for daily walks or riding a bike. Begin slowly and gradually increase the length of these regimens over time.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Incorporate muscle relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, into your daily routine to deal with anxiety and stress.
Opt for whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and lean meats. Avoid added sugars, saturated fats or trans fats, and high amounts of salt.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
If you have more than one drink a day, cut back. One drink is approximately 12 ounces of beer; 5 ounces of wine; or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, such as vodka or whiskey.
If you smoke, plan to quit. Smoking increases the formation of plaque in blood vessels. Coronary Heart Disease occurs when arteries that carry blood to the heart muscle are narrowed by plaque or blocked by clots. Chemicals in cigarette smoke cause the blood to thicken and form clots inside veins and arteries.
Monitor Heart Health
Know your blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol levels.
Connect with Spirituality
There are many definitions of spirituality, but at its core, spirituality helps to give your life a clearer purpose and a stronger connection to the world and others. It is not always associated with a specific belief system or even religious worship. To express your feelings and focus your attention, try prayer, meditation, or keeping a journal.
Seek the Help of a Professional
Get an annual physical and speak with your doctor about your health, including psychosocial stress.
- Christmas holiday triggers of myocardial infarction
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