Not too long ago, if your doctor said you needed a blood thinner to prevent a stroke, you didn't have to think too hard about it. Warfarin (Coumadin) was the only way to go. But not anymore. With four other medications to pick from, you'll have to do a little homework to figure out what's best for you.
"It's not a one-size-fits-all choice," says Bruce Lindsay, MD, from Cleveland Clinic. A lot depends on your overall health and your lifestyle.
Stress hormones can contribute to potentially dangerous inflammation in your arteries. Stress also raises your risk for diabetes. What's more, you may try to handle the stress in some unhealthy ways -- such as drinking too much, overeating, or smoking.
"Trying to prevent stress completely doesn't usually work, since life just gets stressful sometimes," says Gordon Tomaselli, MD, chief of cardiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Instead, he suggests developing ways to deal with stress when it appears.
Get physically active. Experts are unanimous: Exercise is one of the best things you can do for a heart condition. Not only does it improve your physical health, it also can improve your mood and cut stress, says Estes. How much do you need? Aim for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week of moderately intense activity a week. Take a brisk walk, swim, bike, or do just about anything that gets your heart going. If you have a heart condition, check with your doctor before starting a new workout routine.
Try active relaxation. Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, tai chi, and deep breathing are all good options, Tomaselli says. "If you find an approach that gives you satisfaction and lowers your stress, stick with it," he says.
Reach out to friends and family. People you love are some of the best stress-busters you have. Give yourself a break. Just have some fun and share a laugh.
Do something new. Feeling stressed out and sick can put you in a rut. Push yourself to do something new. Visit a museum. Go to a bookstore. Read on a park bench. Go to a Spanish class.
Help others. At a time when you're feeling worried and sick, helping others can give you an unexpected lift.