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Feature Article Manage Stress for Heart Health

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By Christine Magill, PA-C

Get plenty of rest, eat healthy and exercise. Take time for yourself. Laugh. Sound familiar? 

Managing stress is something we all know is important, but for many women, following that advice is easier said than done. People react differently to stress, but for the health of our hearts, it’s important to learn to reduce and manage it. 

Ongoing stress can lead to an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, which over time can damage the walls of arteries and increase the risk of heart disease, the number one killer of women. During stressful times, people sometimes turn to unhealthy habits that contribute to heart disease, such as smoking, excessive drinking and overeating.

At Samaritan Cardiology, I often see women with symptoms of stress, including fatigue, heart palpitations, chest pain, inability to lose weight and depression. I don’t think that women are better or worse at managing stress. But it can be hard to avoid stress. 

I run into stressful situations daily in my profession. I am also a mother of two young children who provide much joy and stress at the same time. To manage my stress, I get regular exercise, talk with friends and family about things that are bothering me and try to keep a positive attitude.
 
If you tend to mull over problems at the end of the day, I suggest writing things down before bed so you can address them the next day.

Researchers are still studying the effect of managing stress and heart disease. Meanwhile, there are multiple studies regarding practices such as biofeedback and relaxation techniques that reduce stress when used consistently. 

It’s in our best interest to reduce stress because chronic stress causes wear and tear on the body. That can lead to heart disease, stroke and even diabetes. Many people take medicine to control high blood pressure. This can be an effective way to manage the effects of long-term stress, but finding ways to reduce stress is also important, whether it’s through counseling, exercise or taking time for yourself. 

If you need help managing stress, your primary care provider is a great resource, and he or she can refer you to additional care if necessary. The American Heart Association and the American Psychological Association also offer tips online on managing stress, and you’ll find information on ways to keep your heart healthy at Samaritan Heart & Vascular Institute website, samhealth.org/Heart. 
 
Christine Magill is a certified physician assistant at Samaritan Cardiology. She sees patients in Albany, Corvallis, Lebanon, Lincoln City and Newport.