A month to change your heart: Day 6

More and more studies have begun to show that the effect of stress on the heart is even greater than we used to think.  For example, anger, irritability, and hostility can provoke your arteries to constrict. 

Researchers in Michigan found that heart patients who experienced these emotions during a mental stress test had decreased blood flow.  Another study showed that people most prone to anger are more than three times more likely to have a heart attack or sudden cardiac death than those who are less prone to anger. Depression is another key factor that increases your risk of cardiac problems. In fact, some studies have shown that heart disease deaths quadruple in those with major depression. 

So, how do you beat stress? Fortunately, researchers have found that laughter can help.  People who use humor to deal with uncomfortable situations and laugh more seem to have a lower risk of having a heart attack.

We will be showing you a variety of other ways to both identify and reduce stressors in your life during the next month.  I have advocated a multi-disciplinary approach to stress reduction. The approach often needs to be individualized – you need to find what works for you. For example, tai chi may work great for one person, but yoga is the best fit for another.  Meditation, mindfulness, and cognitive therapy may also be helpful techniques.

On the sixth day of Healthy Change of Heart, the doctor said to me:

  1. Begin identifying what kinds of things in your life can cause stress.
  2. Try not to exercise after eating.  Remember how your mother used to tell you not to swim for an hour after eating? She was probably right
  3. Cleansing is not a good way to begin a diet.  It can disturb the balance of electrolytes in your body and potentially make you ill.  A lifestyle change is a much more natural approach
  4. Watch the video about stress included here.

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