Stress and the Heart

We all experience stress in our day to day lives, but the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic adds an additional strain to your mental health. This added stress can be dangerous over a long period of time and take a toll on your heart health.

In times of stress, the body releases hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that increase your breathing and heart rate. An extended period of stress can keep these chemical levels high for a prolonged amount of time, which can lead to high blood pressure and inflammation.

A study published in PNAS found that chronic stress caused a failure to down-regulate the body’s inflammatory response, causing an increase in inflammation without the ability to decrease it again. This increase in plasma cortisol concentration then caused an increased risk of disease exposure.

There are a few things you can do to help deal with additional anxiety during the coronavirus crisis to help you manage your stress and inflammation.
Physical Activity: Try to take a walk around the block or bike ride through the neighborhood at least once a day if you are able to safely do so. Activity is good for the heart, and getting out of the house to exercise is good for your stress as it becomes part of your routine.
Healthy Diet: Being stuck inside with your best food and your worst mood may be tempting, but a healthy diet can help reduce your risk of heart attack.
Self Care: A study published by the University of Lausanne found that cortisol levels are on average lower among people who practice meditation regularly. These same principles apply to practicing yoga to calm your breathing. You can also focus on a distraction in your spare time to do the things you love that relax you, like reading, knitting, baking, and other low-impact hobbies.

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