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10 Ways to Protect Your Heart From the Tolls of Recession

Healthy Diet, Exercise, Relaxing Techniques Can Go a Long Way in Reducing Ill Effects of Economy-Related Stress

3. Become a Sleeping Beauty

Sleep is not just a time of rest, but of restoration,” says Charles Raison, MD, director of the Mind-Body Clinic in the department of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine. While we are sleeping, our bodies repair a lot of the damage that happens during the day.

“Think of it like the night cleaning crew that comes in when the lights are down and the office is empty,” Gandy says.

Although we need eight hours of sleep a night, many Americans live in a sleep-deprived state, and that’s not good for our health during the recession, or any other time.

To sleep better, avoid doing stressful things before bedtime, such as paying bills, reading about your diminishing retirement fund, or having a tense conversation with your partner or family. If you have trouble sleeping on a regular basis, discuss this with your doctor.

4. Watch your stomach

Eat healthful foods and limit fatty, processed foods. Fresh vegetables, fruit, and lean meats should top your grocery list. Skip desserts and fried foods -- and save money, too.

If you’ve been laid off, it’s especially important to watch your weight, Gandy says. “Suddenly people begin to see 5 pounds around their middle, and they don’t know where it came from,” he says.

Often, it comes from mindless nibbling and snacking throughout the day. That extra weight, particularly around the middle, can increase a person’s risk of heart disease.

5. Watch out for recession depression

Even if you have not previously been vulnerable to depression, watch for its symptoms during these trying times. Depression affects not only your outlook but also your heart health.

"Depression is a marker that the brain and the body have gone into a state that increases your risk of disease," says Emory's Raison.

It's only natural that bad news gets us agitated and anxious, causing our blood pressure to rise and our arteries to "clamp," Raison says. "You have a fight with your wife, this happens. You lose your job, this happens."

These times that try men's and women's pocketbooks are much like that, Raison explains.

"We're all affected to some degree, and it emotionally brings it closer to (each of) us," he says.

Thus, it's important to keep a watchful eye for signs of depression, not only in yourself but in family members and significant others.

Because men are often reluctant to seek help for depression, men who have been laid off should pay special attention to signs of depression.

What to watch for?

Prolonged sadness; a loss of interest in things that typically bring joy; sleeplessness; anxiety; loss of concentration. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about possible depression and options for treatment, such as antidepressants and talk therapy.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, seek immediate help.

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