Once again, our blog at the Center for Natural and Integrative Medicine shines the spot light on the special topic which we opened at the first of the year: maintaining a healthy heart.
Undoubtedly, you have heard some of our tips previously, but we have tried to make the suggestions more memorable, powerful, and perhaps even more palatable with our Heart Owner’s Manual!
We began by introducing some healthy eating habits for your heart.
Our Second “Chapter” brought you key factors about maintaining a healthy level of physical activity to maintain your heart and a healthy overall condition.
Today, in “Chapter Three,” hope to bring you some helpful hints to guard your heart against that crippling fact of life, stress.
The Cycle of Stress
Let’s begin by looking at the cycle of stress in daily life. We will see what happens to your body in a stressful situation and how it might affect your heart.
A. A situation upsets you. Your senses tell you to be upset. (We don’t mean an immediate danger.)
B. The body reacts by making adrenaline, a powerful hormone. At the same time, “cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.” The body is very upset.
C. Your breathing and heart rate begin to rise and race.
D. These are natural responses. “These physical reactions prepare you to deal with the situation by confronting it or by running away from it — the “fight or flight” response.”
E. The Danger Zone: The danger begins when the stressful condition of your life situation or style keeps your body switched constantly into high gear.
F. Days, weeks, and months march by relentlessly, and the condition is chronic so your body remains in high gear often and intermittently for days or weeks at a time.
G. Needless to say this is not good for you. Experts say that chronic stress is not directly proven to cause high blood pressure, “but it can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices that are associated with high blood pressure.”
Indeed, at the Center for Natural and Integrative Medicine, we see the ravages caused indirectly by chronic stress. These are the decidedly poor lifestyle choices that can be caused by chronic stress:
1. Stress pushes you into packing on extra pounds,
2. Stress goads you into gobbling too much sodium,
3. Stress tires you into neglecting healthy physical activity,
4. Stress impels you into gulping too much alcohol.
Suddenly headaches become common. Soon stomach troubles begin. The wear and tear begins to show up on heart tests. Such is the insidious manner that chronic stress becomes a gateway to weakening your immune system and causing you uncomfortable and dangerous physical symptoms.
You must understand that here at the Center, we know we can’t protect you from the common stresses of ordinary 21st century life. We can only suggest that you find ways to control your reactions to stress. (Caution: Stress and Anxiety are not identical. You might need to talk to the doctor about the difference.)
Four Stress Managers for Daily Life:
Since we can not wipe out stress in your daily life, we bring you four techniques that are helpful in managing or controlling your stress levels at home and at work. Remember these four ways to focus and fight against stress which might harm your heart. (We begin with two, and follow up with two more tips next week.)
1. Positive Self-Talk
On the one hand, the self-talk in your head can be positive like: “Things will work out.” On the other hand, self-talk can be very negative “I’m really worthless.”
Believe it or not, with positive self-talk, you can calm yourself down and control your stress before it becomes chronic. The American Heart Society says,
“Remember: Positive self-talk helps you relieve stress and deal with the situations that cause you stress.” (See more healthy heart self-talk at this convenient online resource.)
2. Find Your Personal Path to Pleasure
When stressful situations beset your life, the Center for Natural and Integrative Medicine advises you to balance it with simple pleasures.
Experts say, “You don’t have to do a lot to find pleasure. Even if you’re ill or down, you can find pleasure in simple things such as going for a drive, chatting with a friend or reading a good book.”
A is for art: Play!
The more high-tech the human race becomes, the more we crave time to play. Find a hobby. Any past time can be considered an art!
B is for books: Read: Books and magazines will help you escape daily pressures and problems.
C is for cards, and we include board games with your friends or family.
D is for dinner, but we include lunch or coffee time, with friends. If you must be alone, just people watch while you sip or dine. Let your mind drift or dream little, to the other people’s stories, not your own.
E is for the “everything” you hope to accomplish in life. So, focus on making a list, not worrying about situations you can not change.
F is for flowers, so take a walk and notice them, and look at birds and trees. Lift your heavy heart and mind with a touch of nature.
G is for going to a movie. Likewise you can escape stress with an old movie on television.
In our next blog, we will bring you details about the last two of our Four Stress Managers for Daily Life. We will be discussing eight emergency ways to control stress at the moment it occurs, plus we will bring you information on the truth about relaxation. Until then, we hope you will pursue some healthy heart habits for 2015.