Sixty percent of American adults report feeling stress every day, according to a national Gallup survey. Managing stress through healthy lifestyle habits – and sometimes professional help – can help lessen your risk of developing serious conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, dementia and stroke.
First, though, it’s important to know what stress is. Put simply, it’s the natural response to a perceived threat, or stressor. When this happens, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which sends you into “fight or flight” mode – you are physically preparing to either confront the stressor or run away.
A reasonable amount of stress is normal. But if becomes constant, it negatively affects everyday activities and leaves you more susceptible to chronic inflammation and disease.
Dr. Bhavananda Reddy, MD, FHRS, a Cardiologist at Northwest Medical Center Houghton, said it is important to understand what causes stress and to take steps to manage stress to protect your long-term general and heart health.
“Chronic stress can take a major toll on the body,” he said. “With a few easy lifestyle changes, though, you can do a lot to control your stress.”
Dr. Reddy recommends five habits to help reduce stress:
● Exercise daily: The American Heart Association reports only 2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week can reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and Alzheimer’s disease.
● Eat well: Break the “stress eating” habit in favor of a balanced diet including vegetables and healthy fats. Plan healthy meals ahead of time to avoid reaching for unhealthy snacks when hunger – or stress – strikes.
● Get enough sleep: For adults, that means seven to eight hours a night.
● Practice self-care: Relax and recharge with your favorite activities and mindfulness techniques like meditation.
● Ask for help: If you feel too overwhelmed by stress to handle it alone, doctors and mental health professionals are trained to give you tools to help.
“Stress management can be a challenge during difficult times in our lives,” said Dr. Reddy, “but addressing it one strategy at a time will help you go a long way towards feeling better.”
About Northwest Healthcare
Northwest Healthcare is an integrated healthcare provider committed to delivering Tucson and surrounding communities with high quality, accessible healthcare. Northwest Healthcare includes Northwest Medical Center, Oro Valley Hospital, Northwest Medical Center Sahuarita, Northwest Medical Center Houghton, Northwest Emergency Centers in Vail and Marana, Northwest Urgent Cares, Northwest Women’s Center, Northwest Primary & Specialty Care, Northwest Tucson Surgery Center, Tucson Surgery Center and Northwest Transitions, an inpatient rehabilitation facility. To learn more, visit HealthierTucson.com