Island Senior: Be kind to your heart

Posted January 30, 2022 at 2:17 pm by

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

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