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Atrial Fibrillation Health Center

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Ease the Stress of a Heart Condition

WebMD Feature

A heart condition such as atrial fibrillation, heart failure, high blood pressure, or even high cholesterol can be a source of worry. And that could become a problem.

"It can be a vicious cycle," says N.A. Mark Estes, MD, director of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Center at Tufts University School of Medicine. "Stress can make heart conditions worse."

Recommended Related to Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Myths and Facts

Atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib, happens when your normal heartbeat or rhythm is thrown off. Yes, it can be dangerous. Your heart may not be able to pump enough blood. On the other hand, millions of people with long-lasting AFib live quite well, says Gordon F. Tomaselli, MD, chief of the division of cardiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "It's very possible to live a normal life for many years." So let's clear up those ideas that may be limiting you when they don't...

Read the Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Myths and Facts article > >

Hormones your body makes in response to stress can play a role in causing inflammation in your arteries that could be dangerous. Stress also raises your risk for diabetes.

You may even be feeling stressed about being stressed. That leads some people to try to handle their anxiety in 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 finding ways to deal with it when it happens.

Move Your Muscles

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, Estes says.

How much do you need? Aim for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week of moderately intense activity. Take a brisk walk, swim, bike, or do just about anything that gets your heart going. But since you have a heart condition, check with your doctor before you start a new workout routine.

Try Active Relaxation

Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, tai chi, and deep breathing are all good options. "If you find an approach that gives you satisfaction and lowers your stress, stick with it," Tomaselli 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. Share a laugh and good company.

Do Something New

Feeling stressed out and sick can put you in a rut. Push yourself outside the norm to change your outlook.

  • Visit a museum or see a local play.
  • Go to a restaurant you haven't been to before.
  • Listen to a different style of music.
  • Spend time outdoors. Read on a park bench.
  • Take a foreign language class.

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