Let’s Talk About Stress

Everyone has stress, but most of us do not have a good handle on how to reduce that stress and manage it. “Why do I care about managing stress?”, you might say. “It is something everyone just deals with right…” The answer to that is yes and no.

Experts have been studying the effects of stress on health for a while now. There are now links to chronic unmanaged stress with many health conditions. We will take a look at one of those health conditions today and discuss a stress management tactic to combat it!

Heart Disease – Stressed out people have an increased chance of having high blood pressure, which can lead to heart problems!


Possible mechanism for stress leading to heart disease!

  • WHY? Science isn’t quite sure. What is known is that stress can increase heart rate, blood flow, & causes the release of cholesterol & triglycerides into the blood.
  • Some studies have shown a link between increased stress hormones and atherosclerosis (hardening/narrowing of the arteries), which can put you at risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Stress also increases your chances of smoking (as a possible coping mechanism) or obesity (food as a coping mechanism), which both are related to increased heart risks as well as other risky behaviors.
  • Sudden emotional stress is also linked as a trigger for serious problems like heart attacks!
  • What if I already have one of those conditions? Is there anything I can do? In fact, a study looked at patients who had coronary artery disease and placed them on a stress reduction plan (that included diet and exercise management), and found a reduction in their disease compared to the control group after only 1 year without the use of new medications!

Stress Reduction Tricks!

The American Heart Association (AMA) has the following list of stress reduction techniques:
  1. Talk with family & friends

Being social is great medicine

Future naturopathic doctors being silly, having fun, practicing self care, and decreasing stress!

Future naturopathic doctors being silly, having fun, practicing self care, and decreasing stress!

2. Engage in daily physical activity

Check out my workout page for a growing list of ideas!

3. Embrace the things you are able to change

Things in life are always changing, embrace new things and don’t let yourself focus on past mistakes

4. Laugh!

5. Give up bad habits

Stop smoking! Limit your alcohol intake! Decrease your caffeine intake! If you have high blood pressure or are at risk for heart disease, these are not helping you cope they are hurting you in the long run.

I love my coffee... but only in moderation! Health and happiness comes first!

I love my coffee… but only in moderation! Health and happiness comes first!

6. Slow down

Practice 4 count breathing! Breath in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, breath out for 4 counts, and hold for 4 counts. Do this 4 times and you will notice a decrease in heart rate and you will feel more relaxed!

Visualize you are here... or somewhere else that relaxes you

Visualize you are here… or somewhere else that relaxes you

7. Sleep – 6-8 hours a night

8. Organize your life

9. Practice giving back

Volunteer, help a friend, do something for someone else! This is my challenge for you this week! 

Take the time to tell a stranger what a great job they did! It can be a receptionist, bus driver, crossing guard, restaurant server, anyone you like! We all need a boost!

10. Don’t worry, be happy!

Be like the birds, they don’t worry about what to wear or where they are going to get their food next. They just exist and live!

My name is Emma Petshow and I am a 3rd year naturopathic medical student at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR. For more about myself, check out my bio. This blog is intended for information about preventive health and lifestyle improvement. The information contained on this blog is not to be used as medical advice. For specific medical advice you should consult your physician.

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