Heart Failure and Stress Management
Can Relieving Stress Improve Heart Failure?
Perhaps. It seems to make sense, but studying the relationship is harder than you might think. Relieving stress may help someone feel better, which in turn could make them more apt to follow doctors’ orders.
But did the improvement come from less stress or better care?
We do know that lower stress leads to changes in your body. When stress eases, so do levels of cortisol and adrenaline. This could lessen the burden on your heart.
People who took an 8-week course of coping skills and mindfulness that encouraged relaxation and anxiety relief showed improvement over the course of a year, compared with people who did not.
How Can I Lower My Stress?
This depends on what you find relaxing and mentally soothing, as long as it’s not unhealthy things like drinking alcohol or smoking.
Meditation, for example, is thought to help the body and mind unwind. One study found that people with heart failure who were taught the principles of meditation said they had better quality of life. It even improved their performance on a 6-minute walk test.
Another stress reliever is exercise, which can ease muscle tension and release chemicals in your body that improve your mood.
Don’t just look to familiar solutions. Tai chi, an ancient Chinese tradition that involves deep breathing coordinated with slow, focused movements, also has some science behind it.
Some people hospitalized for heart failure had a drop in stress hormones during a session with a therapy dog.
There are lots of ways you can lower your stress. Choose whatever healthy means works for you, whether it’s gardening, walking, or finding a few quiet minutes every day for meditation and deep breathing.
While the long-term benefit still isn’t proven, this much is undisputed: There are no harmful side effects from less stress.