Stress and emotions can negatively effect heart health

APA provides tips for mind/body health

Prevention is a key message during National Heart Health month, and the American Psychological Association (APA) today released strategies to help Americans manage stress.

Research shows that 20 percent of Americans are worried that stress will affect their health, yet 36 percent say they deal with stress by eating or drinking alcohol. While these behaviors may reduce stress in the short term, they contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle that can negatively affect your body and are proven risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

"Achieving a healthy lifestyle comes from adopting behaviors over time that help to manage stress in effective ways that don't at the same time take a toll on your physical health and body," says Russ Newman, Ph.D., J.D., APA executive director for professional practice.

Although heart disease is a serious condition that requires constant monitoring, there are many lifestyle and behavioral changes you can do to manage stress and reduce your risk for cardiovascular problems.]

  • Identify the sources of stress in your life and look for ways to reduce and manage them. Seeing a professional like a psychologist to learn to manage stress is helpful not only for preventing heart disease, but also for speeding recovery from heart attacks when used along with structured exercise programs and other intensive lifestyle changes.
  • Talk to your doctor. No two people are alike, and some treatment or risk reduction strategies may be inappropriate or even harmful if you attempt to do too much too quickly.
  • Avoid trying to fix every problem at once, if possible. Focus instead on changing one existing habit (e.g., eating habits, inactive lifestyle). Set a reasonable initial goal and work toward meeting it.
  • Don't ignore the symptoms of depression. Feelings of sadness or emptiness, loss of interest in ordinary or pleasurable activities, reduced energy, and eating and sleep disorders are just a few of depression's many warning signs. If they persist for more than two weeks, discuss these issues with your heart doctor. It may be that a psychologist working in collaboration with your physician would be beneficial.
  • Enlist the support of friends, family, and work associates. Talk with them about your condition and what they can do to help. Social support is particularly critical for overcoming feelings of depression and isolation during recovery from a heart attack.
  • If you feel overwhelmed by the challenge of managing the behaviors associated with heart disease, consult a qualified psychologist. He or she can help develop personal strategies for setting and achieving reasonable health improvement goals, as well as building on these successes to accomplish other more ambitious objectives. A psychologist can also help clarify the diagnosis of depression and work with the physician to devise a suitable treatment program.

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For more information about mind/body health, heart disease and stress management, please contact Peter Wilson at (202) 336-5910 or visit APA's Help Center at www.apahelpcenter.org. To download APA's pre-packaged news segment on heart health or to capture mind/body health sound bites, please visit http://apahelpcenter.mediaroom.com.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

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