The stress of a new job or a public speaking engagement can make your palms sweaty, your heart race and your stomach clench. The mind and body are inextricably linked and, unfortunately, mental stress can lead to real health problems. When stress levels stay high day after day, your heart health may suffer the consequences. The research is ongoing as to whether chronic stress directly causes heart disease. But what is clear is that stress can indirectly raise the risk of heart disease. Here at Riverside Community Hospital, our heart health providers empower patients to make smart decisions for their healthcare.
Stress can affect your eating habits
Nutrition has a significant effect on your heart health. Your heart and blood vessels need a well-balanced diet that is:
- High in fiber
- Low in saturated fat
- Rich in healthy fats
- Low in sodium
- Low in sugar
If you choose healthy foods like whole grains, lean meats, vegetables and fruits regularly, you’re already taking important steps to protect your heart. But when you’re having trouble coping with stress, you might be more likely to stray from these healthy food choices. Stress can cause some people to overeat or skip meals, choose sugary junk foods and get takeout meals.
Stress can affect your motivation to exercise
When you exercise your muscles, you’re also exercising your heart muscle. Exercising regularly benefits your heart and blood vessels in the following ways:
- Keeps your arteries flexible
- Regulates your blood pressure
- Regulates your cholesterol levels
- Stabilizes your blood sugar
- Maintains a healthy weight
Unfortunately, stress can make a person lose the motivation to exercise, particularly if that stress is linked to not having enough time. If you can manage to get yourself to exercise despite your stress, you’ll almost certainly find that working out helps you manage your stress better.
Stress may prompt you to drink or smoke
Another way stress can indirectly affect your heart health is by setting the stage for alcohol consumption and tobacco use. Of course, not everyone who experiences stress will have a few drinks or smoke cigarettes. But those who do risk worsening heart health.
At HeartCare Institute at Riverside Community Hospital, our heart health specialists are committed to helping you live life well to prevent or manage heart disease. In the Riverside region, our heart hospital is recognized for unsurpassed patient care and life-saving procedures. Please direct medical emergencies to a 911 dispatcher, but for non-emergency questions, you can speak with a nurse at (951) 788-3463.