When you have heart disease, reducing stress is essential, particularly for those who are predisposed to it. Chronic stress can increase blood pressure, cholesterol and other factors that raise the risk of a cardiac event.
Members of MyHeartDiseaseTeam say they’re more aware of stress levels since their diagnoses, and share concerns about managing anxiety around medical treatments, waiting for test results, family and work challenges, unpaid bills – even food shopping.
“Yesterday was a long stressful day. It’s always two and a half hours at the doctor’s office,” shared one member. “I feel stressed just going to the grocery store,” said another.
Recognizing the cause of stress is the first step toward taming it. “My heart disease was probably caused by two to three decades of very high-stress work, very poor eating (chips and dip/Doritos for dinner), family medical [problems], and a type A-personality,” admitted one man who adopted a healthier lifestyle.
“I have family stress that keeps my blood pressure way up. It takes about an hour of rest in order for it to come back down,” another member told the group. I want to find a way that I can prevent emotional stress from affecting my heart.”
Ways To Manage Stress
Classic stress reduction techniques such as exercise, yoga, tai chi, journaling, meditation or visualization - even listening to music - help many members “chill out.” “The classical music I play on my phone everyday has been a lifesaver for me,” shared one MyHeartDiseaseTeam member.
Deep breathing has helped others minimize stress and lower blood pressure. “First step, stop and breath. Second step, stop and breath. Third step, stop and breath,” explained one man. “Don't worry about the things you can’t change or control. Worry, fretting, and stewing is only going to further damage your health.”
Shared another: “I also do deep breathing. “Breathe in, hold five seconds, then breathe out slowly for five seconds, and continue a few more times. Think happy thoughts about places you’ve been that were a good time.”
Signing up for a stress management class or working with a therapist are other ways MyHeartDiseaseTeam members learn how to soothe stress. “I have an excellent team at a local hospital that encourages patients to talk about their conditions and try to avoid stress. They say, ‘A trouble shared is a trouble halved,’” offered one woman.
‘Fishing’ for a Healthy Heart
Setting strong boundaries - especially with family - helps reduce stress and support heart health, members say. “You have to take care of YOU first. And sometimes [that means] tough love, as hard as it may be,” said one.
“Give yourself ‘me’ time,” recommended another MyHeartDiseaseTeam member. “Put away the distractions. And hang a sign on the door that says, ‘Gone fishing.’”
The calming act of sitting in a boat with a line out resonated with several members. “Go fishing as often as you can,” agreed one, to which another replied: “I’ve gotten three to four comments that say, ‘go fish,’ so I’ll give it a go!”
MyHeartDiseaseTeam, the social network and online support group for those living with heart disease, is a safe place for members to share a range of personal experiences and ideas about reducing stress.
Here are some conversations about reducing stress:
"What does everyone do to keep the mental stress of everyday life from affecting heart rate and blood pressure?"
“Been up and down with stress, which is no good for anyone with heart failure.”
“I’ve been stressed out for a while and thinking a lot about my bills, which are overwhelming.”
Have another topic you'd like to discuss or explore? Go to MyHeartDiseaseTeam today and start the conversation. You'll be surprised how many others share similar stories.