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Stress and Your Heart

Everyone feels stress in different ways and reacts to it in different ways. Stress and Your Heart More research is needed to determine how stress contributes to heart disease — the leading killer of Americans. But stress may affect behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risk: And your body's response to stress may be a headache, back strain, or stomach pains.

Stress can also zap your energy, wreak havoc on your sleep and make you feel cranky, forgetful and out of control. A stressful situation sets off a chain of events.

Your body releases adrenaline, a hormone that temporarily causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. These reactions prepare you to deal with the situation — the "fight or flight" response.

Can managing stress reduce or prevent heart disease?

When stress is constant, your body remains in high gear off and on for days or weeks at a time. Can managing stress reduce or prevent heart disease?

Managing stress is a good idea for your overall health, and researchers are currently studying whether managing stress is effective for heart disease. A few studies have examined how well treatment or therapies work in reducing the effects of stress on cardiovascular disease.

Stress and Heart Health

Studies using psychosocial therapies — involving both psychological and social aspects — are promising in the prevention of second heart attacks.

What can you do about stress? Medicines are helpful for many things, but usually not for stress. Some people take tranquilizers to calm them down immediately, but it's far better in the long term to learn to manage your stress through relaxation or stress management techniques. Be careful not to confuse stress with anxiety.

If you suffer from anxiety, speak with your doctor a treatment or management plan including whether you need medication. Figuring out how stress pushes your buttons is an important step in dealing with it.

Engaging in even one of these behaviors may mean that you are not dealing with stress as well as you could.

If your stress is nonstop, stress management classes can also help. Look for them at community colleges, rehab programs, in hospitals or by calling a therapist in your community.

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