Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.See all posts »
Best Practices for a Healthy Heart Step 5: Attitude and Stress
My book, Best Practices for a Healthy Heart: How to Stop Heart Disease Before or After it Starts, will be released in June by The Experiment publishing house. In the book, I outline seven important steps that will help you to achieve optimum heart health and provide you with powerful protection against stroke, dementia, and even cancer.
We’ve gone through Step One (Know Your Numbers), Step Two (Eat Well to Live Better), Step Three (Learn How to Take a Break without Checking Out), and Step Four (Get a Move On). Last week, I introduced you to Step Five: Use Your Common Sense. Because Step Five is so important, and its principles are so often overlooked when it comes to the physical health of the body, I am covering this step in two separate posts. Last week, I introduced the notion that the common wisdom we learned as children extends into our lives as adults, affecting us far more deeply than our parents and mentors could have imagined.
This week’s theme is attitude and stress. Our stress can come from many sources, including job, family, finances, and health. Many people that I see every day are coping with stress from all four quadrants. In fact, the majority of Americans cite stress as one of their primary concerns, and as many as one in three consider their stress level to be “extreme.”
Our bodies are marvelously adaptable to short-term stress. We are created with a highly-tuned “flight or fight” mechanism, such that stressful situations will trigger the release of a multitude of chemicals and hormones that serve to raise our blood pressure and heart rate, and give us that boost of “nervous energy” we need to fight or flee anything that constitutes an immediate threat. Although for our ancestors that might have been a rampaging buffalo, for us, it could be our angry boss, our fuming spouse, or the nitwit that cut us off on the freeway in rush hour traffic. Whatever the provocation, the response is the same.
While these physical reactions might save our life in the short term, over the long haul they can be very harmful. For example, chronically stressed people are more apt to suffer heart attacks and strokes, to have high blood pressure, and to develop diabetes. Stress can also make us fat, since the hormonal changes it stirs up may cause us to crave high energy foods like fats and sugars.
Not all stress is bad, however. Stress that we can harness and control may actually be healthy, allowing us to accomplish goals and live our lives more fully. That’s one reason why it is so important to be empowered and appreciated at home and at work.
In Step 5, I’ll explain more about these different forms of stress, and also reveal how certain personality types may be at higher risk for heart disease and other health problems. I’ll also show you how you can make some simple changes in your approach to stress, and by doing so, create lasting benefits for your health and wellbeing.
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