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Relax, for the Heart of It

by Margot F. November 5th, 2014 | Health Observance, Women's Health
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woman in jacuzzi (400x400)Life for many women can be extremely stressful looking after everyone. Taking care of oneself can be challenging. Some women perceive self care as selfish. Unfortunately, ignoring the signs of stress can have serious consequences for your heart, sometimes resulting in heart disease.

Two types of heart disease are stroke and heart attack. When a blood vessel to the heart is blocked, it is called a heart attack. A blockage to a portion of the brain is called a stroke. In both cases, the cells deprived of oxygen will die within minutes.  Both conditions are extremely serious. Three of the risks for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol and chronic stress.

Stress might be a risk factor on its own or it might contribute to other risk factors.  Regardless, people who are stressed tend to sleep poorly, wake up tired, and need a cup of coffee to get going. The caffeine in the coffee increases heart rate and raises blood pressure. Running around getting the children off to daycare or school, a woman often doesn’t have breakfast before arriving at work. A couple of hours later, exhausted she grabs another coffee and a high fat treat.  The saturated fat in the snack raises cholesterol.

Busy at work, a woman might grab something quick for lunch. Later, there is the race to pick up the children.  At home, exhausted, a convenience food is heated up for dinner. Most packaged foods are high in salt which raises blood pressure, high in saturated fats (increasing cholesterol) and low in nutrition so the person is hungry within an hour.

After the children are settled at night, many women try to catch up on social media or watch TV. When the screens are finally turned off, it is time for bed. Lying down, her mind still racing, it is hard to get a proper night’s sleep and the pattern starts all over again the next day.

In time, the negative effects of this lifestyle add up. The saturated fats contain the bad cholesterol which forms plaque in the arteries thereby reducing blood flow. A high stress lifestyle and a high salt diet increases blood pressure which puts more strain on the heart. When you experience chest pains, shortness of breath or are constantly tired, your body is saying, “Slow down”.

Learning to manage stress can be time consuming at first but well worth the effort. Prepare large meals on the weekend and freeze them so food is available for dinner. Turn off screens of all kinds an hour before bed so your mind has a chance to wind down. Try to sleep about seven hours per night. Find time to exercise. If necessary, buy a treadmill or stationary bike so you can exercise at home. Take a moment out of a busy work day to breathe and give thanks. Remember, you are an amazing woman and deserve to take care of yourself.  If only for a moment, relax, for the heart of it.

(Photo courtesy of Jasper Greek Lao Golangco)

 

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.