Stressing about heart health, from the May 2016 Harvard Men's Health Watch

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Chronic stress can have a negative effect on heart health. People who learn how to react better to stress can reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Chronic stress can have a silent, yet dangerous, impact on men’s heart health. “When stress becomes a constant presence, it can weaken the immune system and increase inflammation, both of which raise the risk of heart attack and even stroke,” says Dr. Ami B. Bhatt, director of the adult congenital heart disease program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. Chronic stress also can lead to other issues that indirectly affect heart health, like high blood pressure and excess weight from stress-related eating.

While men cannot avoid stress all the time, they can make efforts to mange their reaction to it, and thus protect their hearts. One way is to adopt a stress management program, according to the May 2016 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch. For instance:

  • Enlist an activity buddy. Exercise releases calming endorphins to help burn off stress, and a workout friend can help a person stick to a regular routine.
  • Do something enjoyable. Make a list of favorite activities and then implement a plan to do them on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Try deep breathing. A breathing routine can immediately lower stress levels, even if the breathing exercise is only done for a few minutes.
  • Avoid stressors when possible. Try to reduce exposure to known stressful situations. For example, if stores trigger a negative response, shop at hours when there are fewer people.

Read the full-length article: “Stressing about heart health

Also in the May 2016 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch:

  • How to recognize and treat low-grade depression
  • Immunotherapy can help manage severe allergy symptoms
  • Focus on the right exercise duration and intensity for optimal results
  • Learn how to treat strains, sprains, and cramps

The Harvard Men's Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/mens or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).

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Kristen Rapoza
Harvard Health Publications
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