According to the Heart Foundation, Heart disease (which includes Heart Disease, Stroke and other Cardiovascular Diseases) is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 787,000 people alone in 2011.
Atrial fibrillation is a specific heart rhythm condition that affects at least 2.7 million Americans, many of whom don’t even know they suffer from the disorder. Characterized by an irregular heartbeat, atrial fibrillation increases your likelihood of developing blood clots, stroke, and heart failure, according to the American Heart Association.
Two new studies presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in New Orleans show that stress, along with substandard health habits, magnifies your risk for atrial fibrillation.
The 7 Most Important Factors for Heart Health
- Body mass index
- Physical activity level
- Total cholesterol
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
The men and women with the highest scores were 41% less likely to suffer from atrial fibrillation, while those with average scores were just 8% less likely to develop the heart rhythm disorder.
The second study presented at the convention validated the link between stress and atrial fibrillation. More than 26,200 women reported stress from family, finances, work, childhood issues, and traumatic incidences such as the death of a loved one. According to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, the women with atrial fibrillation had significantly higher financial, traumatic life event, and neighborhood stress scores than did women without the disorder, although only traumatic life events could be firmly associated with atrial fibrillation.
While additional studies need to be conducted to ascertain the impact stress-relieving measures may have on reducing the risk of developing atrial fibrillation, it’s always a good idea to keep stress under control. According to the Mayo Clinic, anxiety and depression are also associated with an increased risk for atrial fibrillation. To help nourish your mental health and keep stress, anxiety, and depression at bay, try incorporating the following stress management tips:
#1 Meditation: There are many different forms of meditation to try, from instructor-based transcendental meditation, to self-taught walking or breath-based meditation. Experiment until you find a meditation practice that resonates with you.
#2 Yoga: Depending on your physical limitations and activity levels, yoga can be used to help release tension, strengthen your body and mind, and release stress. Try gentle hatha yoga, or the more power-conditioning ashtanga variations.
#3 Relaxation techniques: Opt for a relaxing breathing practice, a tai chi class, a mantra practice, or a quick round of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to help you de-stress.
#4 Supportive social network: Surround yourself with friends and family who are positive thinkers and infuse your life with happiness and your mind with confidence. Also seek out professional support if stress levels become overwhelming.
#5 Get moving: Regular physical activity is essential for a healthy body and mind. Find a physical activity you love to engage in and do so regularly. Play more!
#6: Eat nourishing foods: Stress can cause you to overeat. A poor diet can also affect your hormones and raise stress levels. While the cause and effect relationship flows both ways, it’s important to nurture your mind with health-promoting, plant-based foods, such as a variety of fruits and vegetables, and high-protein legumes, nuts, and seeds.