Befriending stress for a healthy heart

Research shows that making stress your friend can help improve heart health.

“Our thoughts, beliefs and response to life stressors can transform our perception of how stress impacts our health,” said Roberta Brown, RN, Integrative Medicine program coordinator at Greenwich Hospital. “We can practice viewing our stress response as helpful, and take action to build resilience and promote a healthy heart.”

In one study, stressed individuals who believed stress harmed their health were at increased risk of dying, compared to those who didn’t consider stress as a deterrent to health. “A healthy stress response can help motivate you to take action, seek support and connect with others, even in the midst of a pandemic,” said Brown.

Mindfulness meditation, kindness, compassion, social connection and positive self-talk are all self-care practices that can reduce stress.

Heart health: don’t delay care

With heart disease the leading cause of death among women and men, people experiencing symptoms should seek immediate medical attention, even in the midst of a pandemic, according to Christopher Howes, MD, chief of Cardiology at Greenwich Hospital.

February is American Heart Month, aimed at increasing awareness about the risk of heart disease and the steps to take now to improve heart health.

Heart attack symptoms vary, but generally include chest pressure, tightness and pain; fatigue; shortness of breath; profound sweating; and indigestion. Risk factors for heart disease include family history, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and tobacco use.

If you or a loved one suspect a heart attack, call 911 immediately. First responders can administer life-saving medications in the ambulance and notify the hospital’s cardiac team on the way to the Emergency Department. If necessary, heart attack patients are taken to the hospital’s Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, where physicians can locate clogged arteries and perform an angioplasty procedure to insert a stent that opens blocked arteries.

In addition, the Yale New Haven Health Heart and Vascular Center at the West Putnam Medical Center in Greenwich offers a wide range of preventive and medical services for adults and children provided by Yale Medicine cardiologists.

“Every resource a patient needs to maintain heart health is readily available,” said Dr. Howes.