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Anxiety and stress can contribute to heart attack episodes. They can also contribute to the conditions that underly heart disease. Learning how to manage stress effectively and relax regularly could promote the health of your heart and improve your quality of life.
Effect of Stress Management on Heart Attack
There are a number of ways that stress may contribute directly and indirectly to poor heart health, including raising blood pressure and causing or exacerbating arrhythmias. Managing stress more effectively can ease the burden on the heart and help improve or even heal some of the factors that contribute to heart disease.
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Research Evidence on Stress Management
The work of Dean Ornish, MD, suggests that a program of intensive lifestyle modification, involving an extremely low-fat diet along with exercise and stress reduction, can actually reverse coronary artery disease in people who have had heart attacks, or are at high risk for it.11-13
How to Use Stress Management
There is almost an endless number of techniques for managing stress and inducing relaxation. Some techniques are very low-tech; you can do them anywhere, at anytime, and can learn them on your own. Other techniques are more elaborate and might involve the instruction of a trained professional, such as a yoga therapist. The bottom line is that you should find something that fits with you and your life, and do it regularly.
Consider the following:
Types of Professionals That Would Be Involved with This Treatment
You can learn and practice many stress management and relaxation techniques on your own, and for little or no money. You can also consult with a variety of professionals who offer personalized guidance and instruction. Consider the following:
- Yoga instructor or therapist
- Practitioner of guided imagery and relaxation
- Biofeedback specialist
One of the greatest benefits of using stress management techniques in the treatment of any health condition is that there are virtually no side effects associated with them.
- Ornish D, Scherwitz LW, Billings JH, et al. Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease. JAMA. 1998;280:2001-2007.
- Ornish D. Avoiding revascularization with lifestyle changes: The Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project. Am J Cardiol. 1998;82:72T-76T.
- Ornish D, Brown SE, Scherwitz LW, et al. Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial. Lancet. 1990;336:129-133.
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