How Daily Drama Affects The Heart
Oh the damage that stress can cause!
Especially when it comes to your heart, an intricate (approximately) 11 ounce organ ticking away in your chest, day in, day out. It works so hard, pumping blood without complaint through veins, arteries, carries oxygen and nutrients to every part of our body.
Do you care about your heart?
Do you think you impose too much stress on it?
Good if you do… means you’re making strides tuning out people who cause angst. You are carefully evaluating life events that consistently irritate. You’re starting to realize that persistent worry, angst, rumination is a waste of time.
Your heart is sitting there in your chest, totally innocent. Laying unnecessary daily drama on it isn’t very nice.
Are you listening?
If you’re not, perhaps this will motivate you: Heart disease and stroke are two of the three leading causes of death in Canada. They kill more than seven times as many Canadian women as breast cancer.
These stats catapult my stress quotient into the troposphere. My heart is pounding like a kick drum as I write this. But at stressbubbles, the goal is to be proactive, not reactive.
Besides, these shocking heart health stats are not new. But for some reason we discount them. We seem fixated on our boobies, and ignore aortas, atriums, ventricles and vena caves. Right?
That fixation needs to change. As should your blind acceptance of daily drama in your life.
I recently interviewed Christine Le Grand, Science Policy Analyst, Heart and Stroke Foundation Canada to find out the connection between stress and the heart.
Stress Bubbles: Do women take “heart health” seriously enough?
Christine: Probably not. Women often report that they’re too busy caring for their families to take time out for themselves, never mind for health diagnoses, tests and treatments. They are more likely than men to ignore the symptoms of heart disease and don’t seek medical help as quickly as they should.
Stress Bubbles: It’s been said that chronic stress exposes the body to elevated levels of stress hormones (like adrenaline and cortisol) and changes the way blood clots, which increases the risk of heart attack. True?
Christine: There are all kinds of stress, but if ‘unhealthy’ stress remains unresolved, it can lead to chronic conditions: high blood pressure, elevated levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, and blood platelets that are more likely to clot or clump together inside the blood vessel.
Stress Bubbles: So the body gives warning signals when stress “overtakes.”
Christine: Yes. Chronic stress can result in cold sweats, increased heart rate, can make individuals feel sick. If stress remains unresolved it can lead to chronic conditions. So how we deal with stress is very important. Women need to take care of themselves.
Stress Bubbles: But how? Women don’t ‘slow down,’ they don’t tend to take care of themselves, and they have chaotic, rushed lifestyles!
Christine: For some, the solution may be in learning to say ‘no.’ For others, more time for oneself. Or, physical activity, stress removal, or seeking professional help.
Stress Bubbles: Is it also true that stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, causes a “fight or flight” response resulting in high blood pressure, faster heart rate, slowing down of digestion, weight gain, complicates existing illnesses such as diabetes, leads to anxiety and depression – all increasing one’s cardiovascular disease risk?
Christine: If stress remains unresolved it can lead to (or exacerbate) chronic conditions. Simple (and as complex) as that.
Stress Bubbles: So… best to avoid or monitor situations that cause stress in the first place.
Christine: The Heart and Stroke Foundation offers strategies to prevent or avoid stress in your daily life. They seem simple. But they can challenging to implement:
- Say no. Don’t try to please everyone all the time. Set realistic personal goals with enough time to achieve them. Learn to say no to things that aren’t high priority.
- Stop procrastinating – take action.Putting things off can be stressful.
- Get help – and ask for help – when you need it.
- Identify the source of your stress. Figure out what’s really bothering you: it’s the first step in managing stress.
- Be physically active. (Talk to your physician before starting any activity program.)
- Share your feelings: talking to friends, family or co-workers can help you feel better.
- Take time for yourself.
- Make time to laugh. It’s your body’s natural stress-release mechanism.
- Eat well. Don’t skip meals; hunger can leave you vulnerable to stress.
- Take vacations. Getting away from it all is important to your mental and physical health.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s online booklet “Coping with Stress” provides excellent tips about how to cope with and manage stress. www.heartandstroke.ca
If you begin, consciously and consistently, to assess and monitor your stress levels, you will be making a proactive step in a heart healthy direction.
In memory of a talented young artist who succumbed to a heart malady far too young; Dan …you were a beautiful man, you will be missed.