After every stormy holiday season, it’s difficult to imagine life without stress. Fortunately, these tips will help you stay stress-free despite your holiday to-dos!
Research has proven that the stress-inflammation cycle is as detrimental to your heart as a plate full of the cheesiest fettuccine Alfredo. Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, cause the arteries to constrict, which leads to a rise in blood pressure and decrease in blood flow. Less blood flow equals less oxygen circulating through the body to battle free radicals—unstable cells that can harm healthy tissues. We are aware of the fact that bad LDL cholesterol only becomes threatening when levels get so high that it connects with free radicals. When this occurs, LDL changes structure and gets absorbed by the arterial walls’ lining, resulting in plaque buildup, or atherosclerosis. Such tissue damage causes the immune system to go into overdrive, triggering inflammation. Reduce your risk with these effective mind-body therapies.
- Walk to be fit
Regular physical exertion that stimulates the heart to work harder strengthens the muscle and helps it function more effectively even after the exertion is over.
It is advisable to walk for 30 to 60 minutes a day, moving fast enough to break a light sweat. You want to keep your heart rate between 70 percent and 85 percent of your maximum capacity, which you can calculate by subtracting your age from 220. Wear a heart-rate monitor if you’re not certain that you’re working at the proper intensity.
- Link mind, body, and breath
“Yoga, t’ai chi, and qigong combine physical exercise with a meditative focus on the breath, which stimulates relaxation. We know that exercise and stress reduction are both essential components of protecting heart health, so any time you can mix the two, you do yourself a double service. Research has discovered that adding a stress-management component, in particular yoga or meditation to increased exercise and a low-saturated-fat diet resulted in remarkable weight loss and lowering in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Eliminate the Blues
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depressed people are more prone to develop cardiovascular disease. The connection between mental health and heart health is twofold. Part of it is behavioral, depression makes you less inspired to take care of yourself. But some of the relationship is physiological. Depression raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system and leads to inflammation.
Treating your depression may mean talking to your doctor about antidepressants, or it could mean making a few key lifestyle changes that help you feel more empowered and energized. Patients are advised to look at all aspects of their everyday lives such as their commutes, their jobs, their leisure activities and see what things they do every day that might be negatively impacting their mental health. Anything that causes you mental and emotional stress is more of a drain on your health than you realize.
- Believe in the power of touch
Massage has been hailed for its ability to reduce tension, and these effects translate into measurable benefits for the heart. A single deep-tissue massage produced remarkable reductions in blood pressure and heart rate in participants in a recent study. Reiki [a form of touch therapy] is amazing for stimulating relaxation, which shifts the body out of stress response and balances the nervous system, reducing strain on the heart. At least one study concluded that preterm infants who received a therapy similar to Reiki had heart rates that were better able to adapt to and recover from stress than infants who didn’t get the therapy.
- Prioritize relaxation
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the heart is the emperor of the body as it feeds all systems and rules the mind. The link between the mind and the heart is more than just metaphysical: In a 2008 study conducted by researchers at the Medical College of Georgia, adolescents who practiced simple breath-awareness meditation for 20 minutes a day—10 minutes in school and 10 minutes at home—for three months experienced drastical reductions in blood pressure and resting heart rate. Give your heart a mini-vacation by settling in with your favorite soothing CD. Research shows the heart synchronizes its beating to increases and decreases in music tempo.