By James M. Rippe

Stress may be dangerous for the heart, but the good news is that some simple strategies may significantly lower stress and thereby improve cardiac health. Here are four ways to lower the stress in your life and contribute to cardiac health:

  • Modify or eliminate circumstances that contribute to stress and cardiac symptoms. People often simply do not realize that aspects of their daily lives can compound problems with stress. Cutting back on coffee, tea, energy drinks, and other caffeinated beverages, for example, may make a substantial difference in your stress levels and manifestations like cardiac palpitations.

    Fatigue and insomnia may also contribute to stress, so be sure that you get plenty of rest and a good night’s sleep whenever you’re experiencing symptoms of stress. You also need to avoid the temptation to use alcohol as a way to relax. Although it may seem to offer a temporary release from stress, it usually leads to greater problems.

  • Live in the present. The basis for all effective stress reduction is being able to live in the present. It may sound simple, but many people spend an inordinate amount of time either regretting the past or fearing the future. Strategies such as biofeedback, visualization, and medications can help you live in the present and substantially lower stress levels.

  • Get out of your own way. Many people compound the inevitable stresses of their daily lives by layering on negative feelings concerning these stresses. Recognizing that no one can live a life that is completely free of stress is as important as trying not to compound the problem by allowing feelings of negativity or low self-worth to make stress worse.

  • Develop a personal plan for stress. Developing a personal plan to alleviate stress is one of the most effective ways to handle it on an ongoing basis, instead of allowing it to become free-floating anxiety. Many people find that daily exercise, meditation, taking a timeout (either alone or with family), and other such strategies provide effective ways of controlling the stresses of daily life.