Let’s Talk about Stress
Stress is a fact of life, and not all stress is bad. For example, some stress can be exhilarating and even motivating, such as taking on new challenges or meeting deadlines. The acute stress of too many demands and an overwhelming schedule can result in distress and discomfort. However, chronic, unmanaged stress can result in an increased risk for illness and disease.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and a major cause of disability. While the linkages are not yet fully understood, many studies have shown a relationship between stress and heart disease. For example, a 2004 case-control study found an association between increased risk of acute myocardial infarction and the presence of four psychosocial stressors; work, home, financial stress, and major life events.
Considering the physiological mechanisms of stress: accelerated heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased serum cholesterol, and fluid retention resulting in increased blood volume, it is not difficult to image the adverse cardiovascular effects. Although, more research is needed to determine how stress contributes to heart disease risk, stress management is considered an important intervention for reducing disease risk and improving overall health. Stress is multi-factorial, and the extent of the effect of a stressors’ varies from person to person. There is no simple solution for coping with stress, however there are several interventions that are very effective. Here are just a few:
• Exercise – daily exercise reduces the physiological mechanisms of stress, as well as depression and anxiety.
• Mediation and Breathing – calms the mind, reduces muscular tension, reduces heart rate and blood pressure, and improves blood circulation.
• Yoga and Stretching – decreases resting heart rate, and enhances physical relaxation.
• Laughter – reduces stress hormone, and improves blood flow.
Heart health is important and a healthy lifestyle that includes a positive attitude, fun, physical activity and relaxation will help reduce the ill effects of stress, and improve overall quaility of life.
Rosengren, A., et al. (2004). Association of psychosocial risk factors with risk of
acute myocardial infarction in 11,119 cases and 13, 648 controls from 52
countries (the INTERHEART study):case-control study. Lancet, 364, 953-
Greenberg, J.S., (2004) Comprehensive stress management. New Your, NY: