Mindfulness can reduce stress, lower heart attack risk

Q: I have experienced significant stresses in my life recently and have developed high blood pressure. I am concerned about my heart health. What activities could help decrease my stress and heart disease risk?

A: Stress is your body’s natural alarm system. It releases a hormone called adrenaline that causes your breathing to quicken and your heart rate and blood pressure to rise. Stress, over a long period of time, can have an impact on your overall health, including your heart.

To keep your heart in tip top shape, pay attention to your body’s needs. Key indicators for a healthy heart include having normal blood pressure, cholesterol and fasting glucose levels; having a good body mass index (BMI), exercising regularly, and eating vegetables and fruits.

Practicing mindfulness: Taking a few minutes to relax each day could help lower your risk of heart disease. You may have heard of “mindfulness,” a practice in which people learn to be more aware of every moment. Mindfulness meditation has been linked to lower emotional and chemical stress levels: The abilities to ease depression and anxiety; and to reduce arthritis pain, asthma, risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease.

A study conducted at Brown University revealed that being mindful could have a positive impact on your heart health. People who scored high on the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale were 83 percent more likely to fit the American Heart Association’s profile of heart health compared to those who were less mindful.

Mindfulness can be done simply, every day. Mindfulness is an individualized approach, so that you can feel comfortable with your own practice. You may want to follow a guided meditation for 5-10 minutes a day.

Mindfulness groups: Senior Services offers two Mindfulness Groups in Snohomish County:

Center for Healthy Living, 4100 Alderwood Mall Blvd., Suite 1, Lynnwood. 1-2 p.m. second and fourth Tuesdays.

Stillaguamish Senior Center, 18308 Smokey Point Blvd., Arlington. 9:50-10:50 a.m. second and fourth Tuesdays.

The contact person for both groups is certified counselor Carol Teichgrab, 425-740-3793.

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