February is Heart Health Month

candle burning at both ends

Learn more about your heart

It is very important to learn the signs of a heart attack. Fast action can save lives—maybe even your own.

  • Chest pain or discomfort—it may feel like pressure or a squeezing pain in your chest. It may feel like indigestion. You may also feel pain in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back.
  • Shortness of breath—often comes along with chest discomfort but can also occur before.
  • Other symptoms—breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness, upper body discomfort in one or both arms, the neck, jaw, or stomach

Most heart attacks happen when a clot in the coronary artery blocks the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. A blockage that is not treated within a few hours causes the affected heart muscle to die.

Stress and Heart Health

Candle-Pulse

When you’ve got an unexpected bill, a dead car battery or family trouble on your hands, are you like a cartoon character with steam shooting out of your ears? Or a cool cat who manages your stress?

Everyone feels stress in different ways and reacts to it in different ways. How much stress you experience and how you react to it can lead to a wide variety of health problems — and that’s why it’s critical to know what you can do about it.

“When stress is excessive, it can contribute to everything from high blood pressure, also called hypertension, to asthma to ulcers to irritable bowel syndrome ,” said Ernesto L. Schiffrin, M.D., Ph.D., physician-in-chief at Sir Mortimer B. Davis-Jewish General Hospital, and professor and vice chair of research for the Department of Medicine at McGill University in Montreal.

Stress and Your Heart

More research is needed to determine how stress contributes to heart disease — the leading killer of Americans. But stress may affect behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risk: high blood pressure and cholesterol levelssmokingphysical inactivity, and overeating. Some people may choose to drink too much alcohol or smoke cigarettes to “manage” their chronic stress, however, these habits can increase blood pressure and may damage artery walls.

And your body’s response to stress may be a headache, back strain, or stomach pains. Stress can also zap your energy, wreak havoc on your sleep and make you feel cranky, forgetful and out of control.
A stressful situation sets off a chain of events. Your body releases adrenaline, a hormone that temporarily causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. These reactions prepare you to deal with the situation — the “fight or flight” response.

When stress is constant, your body remains in high gear off and on for days or weeks at a time. Although the link between stress and heart disease isn’t clear, chronic stress may cause some people to drink too much alcohol which can increase your blood pressure and may damage the artery walls.

Make choices in your daily life to reduce stress and take better care of your heart.

Teresa M. – Medical Librarian
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