Heart Health & Well-Being

In addition to what you eat and how active you are, heart health is largely determined by your mental health. Persistent stress, depression, anxiety, sadness, and anger can all have an impact on your heart. In fact, people who report high levels of emotional distress and depression, may be more likely to have a stroke or heart attack.

As we know, stress isn’t always bad. Short term, stress is an important mechanism that can help protect and motivate us. The concern in our modern society is that most individuals are living in a chronic state of stress. This long term “fight or flight” response can negatively impact the body and in particular the heart.

Manage Your Stress

Invest in your mental health and reduce stress by trying some of these healthy coping strategies.

Connect with others:

Speak to family and friends, volunteer in your community, join a club or committee, take a walk with a friend or enroll in a new course. Spending time with others enriches your life, increases feelings of connection and reduces stress.

Calm your anxiety:

Allot some time each day to address your thoughts. “Worry Time”. Schedule this time during the day and allow yourself to be present with your concerns. Vent if you need to, allow yourself to feel stressed, think about your frustrations, journal your thoughts, take some time to think of solutions or learn to accept challenging situations.

Exercise:

Exercise makes us more resilient! Regular activity can help reduce the intensity and frequency of the “fight or flight” stress response, and during fight or flight, it can help lower your cortisol and adrenaline levels back to normal. Think of exercise as being capable of both preventing and treating stress. Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes per week and enjoy any activity you like.

Breathe:

When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, try this easy breathing exercise to lower your heart rate, lower blood pressure, and calm your mind: Close your eyes and inhale slowly for a count of 4 or 5. Briefly pause, holding your breath for a moment. Exhale slowly for 4-5 counts and repeat. Try to do this for a few minutes at various intervals in the day (e.g., when you get up, take a break in the day, before a meeting or before bed) to reset and reduce your stress levels and reactivity.

Sleep Well:

Mental health, heart disease and sleep are all related. A good night’s rest reduces cortisol levels and can help us better manage our stress. Sleep also lowers blood pressure and may decrease the risk of depression. Become more resilient and protect your heart with proper rest. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.