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Stress and emotions can negatively effect heart health

Prevention is a key message during National Heart Health month, and the American Psychological Association (APA) today released strategies to help Americans manage stress.

Research shows that 20 percent of Americans are worried that stress will affect their health, yet 36 percent say they deal with stress by eating or drinking alcohol. While these behaviors may reduce stress in the short term, they contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle that can negatively affect your body and are proven risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

"Achieving a healthy lifestyle comes from adopting behaviors over time that help to manage stress in effective ways that don't at the same time take a toll on your physical health and body," says Russ Newman, Ph.D., J.D., APA executive director for professional practice.

Although heart disease is a serious condition that requires constant monitoring, there are many lifestyle and behavioral changes you can do to manage stress and reduce your risk for cardiovascular problems.]

  • Identify the sources of stress in your life and look for ways to reduce and manage them. Seeing a professional like a psychologist to learn to manage stress is helpful not only for preventing heart disease, but also for speeding recovery from heart attacks when used along with structured exercise programs and other intensive lifestyle changes.
  • Talk to your doctor. No two people are alike, and some treatment or risk reduction strategies may be inappropriate or even harmful if you attempt to do too much too quickly.
  • Avoid trying to fix every problem at once, if possible. Focus instead on changing one existing habit (e.g., eating habits, inactive lifestyle). Set a reasonable initial goal and work toward meeting it.
  • Don't ignore the symptoms of depression. Feelings of sadness or emptiness, loss of interest in ordinary or pleasurable activities, reduced energy, and eating and sleep disorders are just a f
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Contact: Peter Wilson
pwilson@apa.org
202-336-5910
American Psychological Association Practice Directorate
27-Jan-2006


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