If you find yourself a bit stressed now after being exposed to thousands of political ads this year, that's not surprising. Stress is caused by changes in the environment and emotional or physical changes.
Stress is a normal part of life. If left unmanaged, some experts believe stress can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pains or irregular heartbeats. In fact, a recent study compared mental stress and how it affects heart problems for women and men.
Penn State College of Medicine researchers recruited 17 healthy adults, about half were female, to look at how stress impacted their heart's blood flow. Their findings revealed coronary blood flow actually increased in men during mental stress, but it showed no change in the women. These results may explain why women could be more susceptible to adverse cardiac events when under stress.
Study Author Dr. Chester Ray, a professor of medicine, cellular and molecular physiology at Penn State, called the findings a surprise. "Stress reduction is important for anyone, regardless of gender," he said in a written statement, "but this study shines a light on how stress differently affects the hearts of women, potentially putting them at greater risk of a coronary event."
So what can you do to reduce stress? The first step is being able to be aware of common stressors like:
- Illness, either personal, a family member or friend
- Death of a loved one or friend
- Work overload Financial concerns
- Problems in a personal relationship, to name just a few
Also, consider the following activities suggested by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
- Manage workload. Set priority levels for tasks with a realistic work plan.
- Balance lifestyle. Avoid excessive junk food, caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco. Get adequate sleep and rest.
- Reduce physical tension by such activities as taking deep breaths, meditating, and walking mindfully.
- Practice self-awareness. Learn to recognize and heed early warning signs for stress reactions. Understand differences between professional helping relationships and friendships.
- Use available counseling assistance programs.
- Drink plenty of water and eat healthy snacks like fresh fruit, whole grain breads, and other energy foods.
- Stay in touch with your family and friends.