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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

6. Limit the booze

It may be tempting to drown our sorrows in libations, but it’s not very wise in the long run.

First, remember that alcohol is a depressant. Second, it adds extra calories. The list goes on. And remember that it costs money that you could spend on something good for your body.

Although studies have shown that alcohol in moderation can promote heart health, remember that more is not better.

7. Establish a routine

Having a routine during the recession helps your health by bringing peace of mind and lowering your stress hormones.

“When you are used to a routine, you can minimize your risk,” Gandy says. Facing a foreclosure or being laid off makes us feel out of control. When we do things that help us feel in control, such as having a routine, we feel better.

Also, a routine is particularly important for those who have been laid off, Gandy says. When workers suddenly become nonproductive, they often experience a profound sense of loss that can lead to depression. Having a routine, as well as a plan for how you are going to find work, is essential.

8. Take your medicines

When budgets are tight, many people are tempted to cut out or cut back on their prescription medications. Don’t do either, because it may harm your health. If you are having trouble paying for your medicines, talk to your doctor. You can also consider going generic, if a version exists for your medication, or ask if the manufacturer has a financial assistance program.

9. Know your numbers

We’re not talking about financials -- we’re talking blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides. If you already have related medical problems, make sure to continue your doctor's recommended checkups. During the recession, your health may be more stressed than you realize.

10. Chill out

Learn relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, or meditation. Even sharing your experiences in support groups can help your health during the recession. “You’ve got to find a happy place,” says Cleveland Clinic’s Hazen.

Many health centers and some places of worship offer free or inexpensive classes on relaxation techniques. Deep breathing can help lower your blood pressure as well as reduce the amount of stress hormones gushing into your bloodstream, and mindfulness relaxes you and helps you sleep better.

Such techniques can also help you avoid anger, an inevitable consequence of feeling out of control, which can lead to spikes in blood pressure during the day, Hazen says. Those spikes, though brief, put you at increased risk for a coronary event.

Above all, while the financial news is horrible, focus on the good things going on in your life. Even if you have lost a great deal in your retirement fund, maybe you still have your house. Maybe you still have a job. And with a little extra attention, you can still have your health.

Reviewed on February 13, 2009

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