Calm Your Mind and Help Heal Your Heart
By Hafeza Shaikh, DO, FACC, RPVI, FACOI, Cardiologist – Virtua Cardiology
Can we have a heart-to-heart about stress, anger, and depression? It’s totally understandable to feel upset at times.
In small doses, these feelings serve a useful purpose by alerting you to problems and challenges in your life. But if the emotions are too frequent or intense, your health may suffer—and your heart could pay the price.
The heart and mind are intimately connected. Chronic stress and depression are seen as independent risk factors for heart disease, right alongside smoking, high cholesterol and obesity.
An Emotional Chain Reaction
When you’re angry, tense, frightened, or depressed, your body naturally releases coping hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. They create a “fight or flight” response: Your heart beats more rapidly, your blood vessels narrow—increasing your blood pressure—and your blood sugar rises.
If you already have coronary artery disease or heart failure, high emotions may worsen your condition.
And it’s not just the stress itself that’s harmful. Some people who are constantly stressed try to plow through it by smoking, overeating, or drinking too much alcohol. Instead of helping, these unhealthy habits can backfire and end up hurting your heart.
Lower the Temperature
To help keep your emotions from spiraling out of control:
- Call a time-out in tense situations. Step away if you can. Take some deep, calming breaths and collect your thoughts before reacting.
- Exercise. Go for a walk, bike ride, or swim. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
- Do an activity you enjoy. Watch TV, listen to music, read, or talk to a friend.
- Meditate. Download a free app like Calm or Headspace. Yoga and tai chi are also great ways to relieve stress.
- Talk to a counselor or join a stress management program.
It’s impossible to stay happy all the time. By acknowledging and learning how to handle your emotions, you can improve your heart health and overall well-being.
Live Your Healthiest Life
How heart healthy are your habits? Take our quick quiz to find out.
If you need help improving your heart health, we’re here for you. Make an appointment with a Virtua cardiologist at 888-847-8823.
Updated April 13, 2021