Stress is an unavoidable part of life, and thanks to our cave-man ancestors who passed their genes down to us, stress is something that our bodies have been hard-wired to react to. Back when we were cave men, hearing a noise in the bushes provoked what we call the “fight of flight response” – our hearts started racing, our blood pressure increased, and adrenalin was created and pumped into our blood to get us ready to either fight or run away. And all of these responses were appropriate, if the noise that startled us turned out to be a tiger.
But now fast-forward to modern times, when the noise we hear is more likely to be the sound of a trash can falling over or a co-worker dropping something. According to Palm Beach heart doctors, our bodies still react to the noise the same way bodies did in prehistoric times. This causes now – as it did then — a buildup of stress, which increases the levels of cortisol and adrenalin in your bloodstream, causing unneeded wear and tear on your cardiovascular system. But now, because “fight or flight” isn’t appropriate, there is no outlet by which you can get rid of this stress. It builds up, and we get anxious, or worse, angry. Frequent anger is the most common way that modern humans react to stress, but it’s one of the worst. Anger causes your heart to race faster than is good for it, it raises your blood pressure, and it constricts your blood vessels, contributing to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
In other words, instead of saving us as it once did, the stress we pick up in daily life is literally killing us by creating conditions inside our bodies that increase our likelihood of developing heart disease. So finding ways to deal with the stresses of modern life becomes a significant aspect of what we need to do to keep ourselves healthy in this modern age. In this article, some of the top cardiologists in Palm Beach suggest a few ways to help you deal with stress, and thus reduce your risk of heart disease.
Tips from Palm Beach cardiologists to reduce stress and protect your heart
- Cut back on things that make stress worse – caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine actually provokes the fight-or-flight response and increases levels of stress hormones. As for alcohol, having one drink a day can actually be good for you, but any more than that will negatively impact your heart health.
- Teach your body to relax instead of tense up. Because stress is such a common problem, there are many techniques you can learn to reduce your stress levels. Yoga, meditation, and tai chi can all lower stress hormones and reduce your body’s inflammatory responses. Setting a little time aside each day for these types of activities can help to keep your heart healthy.
- Laugh more. It may sound silly, but laughter not only makes you feel better, it burns calories, so laughing more will help you to maintain a healthy weight. That’s one of the keys to good heart health.
- Get more exercise. Few things reduce stress more than getting sufficient aerobic exercise. Whether it’s walking, running, playing tennis, swimming, or dancing, getting at least 150 minutes of exercise per week will reduce your stress levels at the same time it’s making your heart stronger.
- Get more sleep. Studies show that most people in America aren’t getting enough sleep, and as a result live in a constant state of sleep deprivation. This increases their risk of heart disease. If you’re not getting 6 to 8 hours of quality sleep a night, you should consider seeing a sleep expert.
- Learn to get over anger faster. There is an old saying that goes, “Holding a grudge is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” In terms of its effect on your heart, that’s almost literally true.
- Spend more time with friends. Spending too much time alone is bad not only for your mental health but your physical health as well. Recent studies have indicated that people are less prone to angina and similar chest pains when they have the support of a strong group of friends.
For more tips on how to reduce stress, give us a call
Pick up your phone and call some of the best cardiologists in Palm Beach at 561-515-0080 and we’ll start working with you to find ways to lower your stress levels.