HeartMath, widely recognized for its science-based solutions for stress and performance, sheds light on how stress can negatively affect your heart health and provides solutions for de-stressing this Heart Month.
February is Heart Month and, in addition to the hearts, flowers and cards you’ve seen on display for Valentine’s Day, you’re likely to see many people wearing red clothing in support of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, and wearing red to raise awareness is a great way to show support. However, in addition to supporting heart health on the outside, it’s important that we are all taking care of our own heart health on the inside as well.
Most of us know the basics – eat right, exercise daily. But research is indicating that heart health also has a lot to do with how you feel. Stress, beyond ruining your day and making you unpleasant company, is also a major contributor to multiple heart conditions and issues.
Broken Heat Syndrome
For example, did you know that “broken heart syndrome” is a real thing? According to Marietta Ambrose, MD, with Penn Heart & Vascular Center, symptoms are similar to that of a heart attack, triggering chest pain, shortness of breath, as well as an irregular heartbeat and generalized weakness. Women are also 7.5 times more likely to develop broken heart syndrome than men. No surprises there, just ask any recently single woman on Valentine’s Day.
Further demonstrating the connection between our emotions and our hearts, Monday mornings are the most common days for heart attacks. Stress levels are at their peaks for the week on that dreaded day, according to Richard Krasuski, MD, director of Adult Congenital Heart Disease Services for the Cleveland Clinic, adding that doctors even refer to Monday morning as the “witching hour” because of the increased number of heart attacks during this time.
Stress in America
Stress leads to unhealthy lifestyle choices that negatively impact our overall health as well. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2012 Stress in America™ survey, 25 percent of Americans report eating to manage stress, while 13 percent report drinking alcohol. Both a poor diet and alcohol can also attribute to various heart problems.
Additionally, the survey shows that women report higher levels of stress than men. The factors causing stress are the same for both men and women though, the top offenders being money, work and the economy.
To improve your long-term heart health, start by taking steps to reduce stress. Stressful situations are all around us, like rush hour traffic or illness of a loved one. Yet, there are proven ways we can change how our bodies respond to stress.
Simple things, like laughter, can have an immediately positive impact on vascular function, while other activities, like exercise and listening to music, can help you feel calmer when you’re stressed. Meditation is another popular option, often incorporating deep breathing exercises, a quiet setting and focused attention. Hospitals across the country are even converting rooms, such as chapels and closets, into meditation spaces, complete with training products to aid both staff and patients in stress management.
These various training products are tools that can guide us to better manage stress. The Inner Balance trainer, for example, helps you synchronize your breathing with your heart rhythms, a type of meditation in itself, which reduces the negative effects of stress and improves relaxation with just a few minutes of daily use. This approach can help you change your response so stress has less power over you. The Larry King Cardiac Foundation even uses this technology at their foundation sending it to the patients they serve because of its effectiveness in reducing stress.
Managing stress can also lead to positive behavior changes and a healthier physiology baseline. This February, celebrate Heart Month by not only showing your support for the fight against heart disease, but take a deep breath, relax and take the first steps toward a stress-free, heart healthy lifestyle.
HeartMath (www.heartmath.com) was founded by Doc Childre and is a cutting-edge performance company providing a range of unique services, products and technologies to improve health and well being, while dramatically reducing stress. HeartMath clinical studies have demonstrated the critical link between emotions, heart function and cognitive performance. HeartMath studies have been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals such as American Journal of Cardiology, Stress Medicine, Preventive Cardiology and Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Its stress reducing solutions are used in leading healthcare organizations, VA hospitals and clinics, as well as by more than 15,000 health professionals and dozens of school systems throughout the US.