You might think heart disease is linked only with physical activities — a lack of exercise, poor diet, smoking, and excessive drinking. While these habits do heighten the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems, your thoughts, attitudes, and emotions are just as important. They can not only accelerate the onset of heart disease, but also get in the way of taking positive steps to improve your health or that of a loved one.
A healthy lifestyle can go a long way toward reducing the risk of heart disease or managing a diagnosed condition, even if you face a higher risk due to uncontrollable factors such as age, sex, or family history. But making changes in your daily life is not always easy. You may sense a loss of control over your life in having to give up favorite foods, make time for exercise in a busy schedule, or take regular medication.
It also takes personal discipline to ingrain these new habits into your lifestyle. Deviating from a prescribed diet or sneaking a cigarette when no one is looking may satisfy an immediate craving, but it won’t achieve the long-term goal of improved health.
Coping with life’s pressures as they happen
Heart disease has many other mind-body connections that you should consider. Prolonged stress due to the pressures at home, on the job, or from other sources can contribute to abnormally high blood pressure and circulation problems. As with many other diseases, the effects vary from person to person. Some people use stress as a motivator while others may “snap” at the slightest issue.
How you handle stress also influences how your cardiovascular system responds. Studies have shown that if stress makes you angry or irritable, you’re more likely to have heart disease or a heart attack. In fact, the way you respond to stress may be a greater risk factor for heart problems than smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.