February is American Heart Month!
(…Or easing stress can help your heart!)
by Ilyse Streim, Massage Therapist, Center for Integrative Medicine at Good Samaritan
Cardiovascular disease — including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure — is the leading cause of death for American women and men. However, the majority of cardiovascular disease is caused by risk factors that can be controlled, treated or modified, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, overweight/obesity, tobacco use, lack of physical activity, and diabetes. You can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease. To lower your risk:
- Watch your weight
- Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke
- Control your cholesterol and blood pressure
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation
- Get active and eat healthy
- Reduce stress levels
More ideas for healthy living can be found at the American Heart Association website:
Make Blood Pressure Control Your Goal
This American Heart Month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Million Hearts® (a national effort to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the United States by 2017) are encouraging Americans to know their blood pressure, and if it’s high, to make control their goal. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure often shows no signs or symptoms, which is why having your blood pressure checked regularly is important. Work with your health care team to make sure you meet your blood pressure goal. http://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/
Stress and Cardiovascular Disease
Are stress and heart disease related? Stress is a normal part of life. But if left unmanaged, stress can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pains, or irregular heart beats.
Medical researchers aren’t sure exactly how stress increases the risk of heart disease. Stress itself might be a risk factor; it could be because chronic stress exposes your body to unhealthy, persistently elevated levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Studies also link stress to changes in the way blood clots, which increases the risk of heart attack. Or it could be that high levels of stress make other risk factors (such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure) worse. For example, if you are under stress, your blood pressure goes up, you may overeat, you may exercise less, and you may be more likely to smoke.
Integrative Medicine and Stress Reduction
Here at the Center for Integrative Medicine at Good Samaritan Medical Center, we are dedicated to assisting our clients in taking greater responsibility for their own health. We integrate rich, healing traditions with the latest in preventive care to help people find balance in mind, body and spirit. We are available to community members, patients, employees, nurses, physicians, and volunteers. Our comprehensive services include:
Therapeutic and oncology massage
Pre and post-natal massage
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Lastly, here is a wonderful poem that I heard at a meditation retreat this month…make yourself and your beautiful heart your number one priority in life.
Advice to Myself
by Louise Erdrich, from Original Fire: Selected and New Poems. © Harper Collins Publishers, 2003.
Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic–decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.