The wild stock market ride, rising foreclosure rates, and increasing layoffs
may give you a queasy feeling in your stomach, but it’s your heart that is
really at increased risk during a recession, cardiologists say.
Because of the stress that often comes with a recession, it’s important
to take extra care of your heart’s health.
Atherosclerosis: You already know it's bad news. Hardening of the arteries is a leading cause of sickness and death in the United States. In 2005, roughly 870,000 people in this country died of cardiovascular disease largely caused by atherosclerotic problems. That's almost double the number of deaths from all cancers. You might already know what factors put you at risk -- smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and age. But what do you know about ...
“Stress, anxiety, and depression all affect heart health,” says Stanley
Hazen, MD, PhD, section head of preventive cardiology and rehabilitation at the
Cleveland Clinic Foundation. One major effect is accelerated atherosclerosis,
or hardening of the arteries. Elevated blood pressure and heart rate are also
side effects of stress.
Although a recession does not kill tens of thousands of people in a single
catastrophic event, it harms health in the long run. The consequences of
dealing with financial uncertainties can be devastating, experts say.
So what can you do to protect your health during the recession? Plenty. And
you can do it with just a little extra effort -- and very little money.
1. Look the other way
Limit your exposure to the bad news as much as possible. There’s no benefit,
experts say, to monitoring your 401(k) gains or losses on a daily basis. Ditto
for your other investments. Listening to each new bit of news of how alleged
scammers like Bernie Madoff made off with investors’ money only stresses us
We may not think of chemicals when it comes to matters of the heart, but
much of the way the heart responds to stress comes down to body chemistry,
explains Cam Patterson, MD, chief of the division of cardiology at the
University of North Carolina Medical Center in Chapel Hill. And several
different chemical molecules can harm us as a result of stress.
Our bodies react to stress by producing hormones such as cortisol and
adrenaline. Especially for those already at risk for heart disease, the results
of an outpouring of stress hormones can be deadly -- or at least risky. They
can build up over time, with effects that lead to damage of arterial walls and
weakening plaque that may already be in a vessel.
“They make the plaques more likely to explode,” Patterson says.