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Stress and Your Heart

We all have stress. It's a normal part of life.

How you handle it makes a big difference. Over time, high levels of stress can lead to emotional, psychological, and physical problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pains, or irregular heartbeats.

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Doctors don't know exactly how stress raises the risk of heart disease. It could be a mix of things. If your health habits slide because of stress -- you overeat, don't exercise, smoke, or drink too much -- that's a problem.  

How to Manage Stress

Change what you can. Do your best to get as much stress out of your life as possible.

You'll still have some stress left over. Remember that although some things are out of your control, you always have control over how you respond to them.

Exerciseis a proven way to blow off stress. If you have heart disease, talk with your doctor about what types of exercise you can do.

Relax every day.Meditation is a simple way to do this. Even a few minutes help. To meditate, head to a quiet spot, get in a comfortable position, and pick something to focus on -- whether it's your breath or a word or phrase that is calming -- for a few minutes. You will have other thoughts during that time. That's OK, but try not to get wrapped up in them.

Connect with positive people. Make a point of spending time with people who handle stress well. Talk with them about how they manage stress, and try what they do.

Get enough rest. Even with proper diet and exercise, you can't fight stress effectively without rest. Establish a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.

Reframe stress. See it as a challenge, not a problem. Tell yourself that whatever’s going on, you can get through it. Look for ways to lighten up where you can.

Take your time. Do one thing at a time, focusing on each task as it comes. Take a break when you need to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel that you are unable to deal with stress on your own.

Find meaning. Whether you do so through volunteering, a faith community, or your work, look for opportunities to get beyond your own experience and help someone else. It may put your own situation in a different perspective.

Consider taking a stress management class or talking with a therapist for more ideas about how to tame your stress.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 20, 2014

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