People who are stressed often have an unhealthy lifestyle, which may increase their risk of coronary artery disease.
Smoking is a strong, independent risk factor for heart disease, lung cancer, bronchitis, and emphysema. Alcohol is fattening, increases the cholesterol and triglyceride fat levels, and increases the blood pressure. It is poisonous to the heart muscle, leading to heart enlargement, weakening of the heart muscle, and heart failure. It also irritates the heart, causing an irregular rhythm called atrial fibrillation, which may develop after a binge.
Stress makes some people drop their good habits. They may stop going to the gym for a variety of reasons, and other components of their healthy schedule lapse. The lack of exercise may also contribute to depression and further stress. Stress interferes with sleep, causing a knock-on effect.
OUR 10 STEP METHOD TO REDUCE STRESS
Step 1. Identify what makes you stressed or depressed, and try to change it.
Step 2. Remember that if you want to feel better, a positive attitude will help you will feel better, but it will not happen overnight.
Step 3. Get physically and emotionally fit. Step 4. Get into a daily routine of eating a healthy, varied diet with no additives and that is low in fat and salt. Drink as little alcohol as possible. Stop smoking completely. Drink caffeine in moderation.
Step 5. Exercise every day. Step 6. Get plenty of rest and sleep. Step 7. Surround yourself with nice, humorous, supportive people whom you can talk to. Step 8. Find something interesting in your daily routine.
If you can't, consider changing the routine. Find a hobby or a project, working either alone or with supportive people whom you feel comfortable with.
Step 9. If you feel tearful, sad, unhappy, desperate, or suicidal, speak to your doctor. Step 10. Whatever you do, do not give up. If the program works, continue. If it does not work, keep going; it will work eventually.
Living a healthy life may mean having to make big and difficult changes, and stopping some of the things you enjoy; some of these (for example smoking and drinking alcohol) you may believe are helping you to cope with stress. The things that will work, making you feel better, and reducing your stress and your risk of developing coronary heart disease are:
• Stopping smoking completely. Reducing the amount you smoke helps a bit because smoking even one cigarette per day is harmful.
• Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink. Alcohol is a depressant substance. Stopping all alcohol for a few weeks maybe difficult. But if you do, you will feel better, fitter, less depressed, fresher, and more alert during the day and more able to concentrate. You will lose a considerable amount of weight if you had been drinking over 10 units per week, and your cholesterol, blood sugar level, and blood pressure will fall. They may fall low enough to make treatment of high cholesterol and blood pressure unnecessary.
• Eat a low fat, low carbohydrate diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and chicken and fish. Avoid processed or packaged foods, canned foods (other than canned fish), snacks with additives and salt, takeout, and fast food.
• Exercising, ideally, every day and doing a form of exercise that you enjoy and that you will continue for the long term. Going to the gym is not everyone's idea of fun, but it is not meant to be if you do it properly. Many people join a gym, go once or twice, and then resent having to pay the membership because they don't enjoy it, and don't return. Gym work does not need to be enjoyable, and the best exercise is one where you exert yourself. The idea is to get hot, sweaty, and breathless for at least half an hour, every day. Exercise to this intensity is useful. Useful exercise should be uncomfortable. Sitting around the gym refreshment bar is not exercise and does not decrease cardiovascular risk, although the social interaction and relaxation may reduce stress.
• Getting good-quality sleep every night. Stress and depression often ruin a person's regular sleep pattern, causing early morning wakening. This leads to fatigue, irritability, and further stress. It leaves you feeling too tired to cope and think clearly. Exercise at the end of the day improves the ability to get off to sleep and may help you sleep throughout the night without waking up. Some people may need a short course of a sleeping pill, but this is not recommended unless other methods have failed.
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