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Stress and Your Heart: A Dangerous Combination

A study published in the December 2008 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that stress increases the risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular events by up to 50 percent.

The study included 6,576 healthy men and women with an average age of 50. Participants were asked to fill out a 12-item general health questionnaire in order to measure their levels of psychological distress and general happiness. It also measured lifestyle factors that affect heart attack risk like smoking, alcohol consumption and physical activity.

Based on the answers, researchers from the University College London in England established that 15 percent of participants in the study were suffering from psychological stress.

After a seven year follow up, the researchers found that incidents of cardiovascular events like heart attack, stroke, and heart failure were 50 percent higher for the group suffering from stress, depression or anxiety.

The researchers note that these findings give some empirical evidence to claims that interventions for people at risk for cardiovascular events should include not only lifestyle changes but psychological changes as well.

Based on these results, people at high risk for cardiovascular complications might benefit from modifying risk factors like smoking and obesity AND focusing on stress management and relaxation techniques.

Some common risk factors for heart problems include being over 65 years old, a family history of heart problems, smoking, high blood pressure or cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes.

If you have any of these risk factors you should speak with your doctor and consider making lifestyle changes that reduce your risk.  According to this study, you may also want to do what you can to reduce the stress in your life.

There are several ways to reduce stress.  According to experts and recent studies, meditating, yoga, increasing activity levels and listening to soothing music all show promise.  Additionally, natural remedies like omega-3 fatty acids, St. Johns Wort and Goji berry juice may combat stress, anxiety and depression in a number of different ways.
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