Island Senior: Be kind to your heart
Posted January 30, 2022 at 2:17 pm by Peggy Sue McRae
February is Heart Health Month. A good reminder when we are so fixated on COVID these days it is easy to overlook taking good care of our hearts. Taking care of our hearts, you know what that means. Get some exercise and eat your vegetables. Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. Lose weight and quit smoking.
Those are all important recommendations, but one factor we might not connect to our heart health is our level of stress. However, recent studies show that chronic psychological stress can play as much a part — if not a greater part — in your heart’s health than other more traditionally thought of cardiac risk factors.
Dr. Michael T. Osborne, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, explains that reactions to stress can activate a fight-or-flight response. This can trigger a release of hormones that causes a cascade of reactions, including inflammation of the arteries and atherosclerosis, the arterial disease that underlies most heart attacks and strokes.
To mitigate stress, Dr. Osborne recommends regular physical exercise (there’s no getting out of this one) and getting a good night’s sleep. He recommends avoiding blue light screens, like on computers or smartphones, at bedtime or using blue-light filters.
There are many tried and true methods to reduce stress. Yoga, tai chi, and various mindfulness practices are widely available. You can also take a yoga class and get physical exercise and stress reduction in one fell swoop.
Be kind to your heart this February. Eat more plants and take more walks. Take deep breaths and have deep sleeps. The Dalai Lama advises, “Be calm, pacify your agitated mind, let go of stress.” Let it go. Freeing our hearts from stress may leave us more room to fill our hearts with beauty and love.
See also: Why stress may be your heart’s worst enemy.
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Categories: Island Senior