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American Heart Month: Heart Health and Stress

American Heart Month: Heart Health and Stress

February 1, 2024

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, and about half of all Americans have at least 1 of 3 key risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking) associated with it. While risk factors such as age and family history cannot be changed, there are several factors you can change, which can lower your risk of disease and improve your quality of life.

Stress can take a serious toll on your mental health, make you feel irritable, and can increase your risk for depression. But stress also affects your body in other ways, often causing headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, and exhaustion. High levels of chronic stress can also contribute to behaviors linked to increased risk for heart disease and stroke, such as smoking, drinking, lack of physical activity, overeating, and an unhealthy diet.

Finding ways to manage stress can not only improve your mood, but can help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease. Below are some simple tips to help you manage stress.

  • Get out of the house. Take a walk outside and pay attention to the sights and sounds around you.
  • Practice healthy sleep routines. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Unwind before bed by dimming the lights and avoiding alcohol and large meals.
  • Find physical activities and exercise that you like to do. Examples include walking, jogging, biking, yoga, lifting weights, playing sports, hiking, gardening, dancing, and playing with pets.
  • Take a break from screens. Set aside 1-2 times per day to check the news and social media. Enjoy screen-free meals with family and friends.
  • Meditation and breathing exercises. Taking deep breaths during a stressful situation can help you quiet your mind and make better decisions. Practicing meditation and mindfulness can help lower overall stress.
  • Start a new hobby. Try learning a new instrument, signing up for a class, cooking a new recipe, drawing, painting, volunteering, visiting a museum, camping, or listening to new music.
  • Reach out to your network. Connect with friends, family, and co-workers throughout the week, and make plans to spend time together doing activities you enjoy.


American Heart Association (

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (