Skip to content

Atrial Fibrillation Health Center

Ease the Stress of a Heart Condition

Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Feature

A heart condition such as atrial fibrillation, heart failure, high blood pressure, or even high cholesterol can put a lot of stress on you. What's worse, you may be feeling stressed about being stressed.  

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

Recommended Related to Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation and Heart Disease

The heart has four areas, or chambers. During each heartbeat, the two upper chambers (atria) contract, followed by the two lower chambers (ventricles). This is directed by the heart's electrical system. The electrical impulse begins in an area called the sinus node, located in the right atrium. When the sinus node fires, an impulse of electrical activity spreads through the right and left atria, causing them to contract, forcing blood into the ventricles. Then the electrical impulses travel in...

Read the Atrial Fibrillation and Heart Disease article > >

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.

Today on WebMD

pacemaker next to xray
Ablation, cardioversion, pacemaker, and more.
human brain
What you need to know.
 
woman doing yoga
Tips for easing stress.
fish and vegetables
Diet guidelines to follow.
 
Omega 3 Overview Slideshow
Slideshow
At Risk for Heart Disease
Video
 
Recognizing Womens Heart Symptoms
FEATURE
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Slideshow
 

Resolved To Quit Smoking
SLIDESHOW
Lowering Blood Pressure Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Heart Disease And Ed
SLIDESHOW
Heart Attack Spit Test
Video
 

WebMD Special Sections