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health as it happens

Minimising your stress directly improves heart health - Trinidad Guardian

HEALTH PLUS MED­ICAL CON­SUL­TANT

If the pan­dem­ic has taught us any­thing, it’s the im­por­tance of so­cial ties and hu­man con­nec­tions. Not on­ly do they im­prove your emo­tion­al well-be­ing, but they can bring phys­i­cal ben­e­fits. How­ev­er, while pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ships can boost health, the op­po­site is of­ten true when it comes to prob­lem­at­ic re­la­tion­ships. Chron­ic emo­tion­al stress may put you at high­er risk for a num­ber of health prob­lems and of ma­jor con­cern, af­fect­ing YOUR HEART.

Study re­ports High­er Risk of Heart At­tacks

A study pub­lished March 2, 2021, in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion, found that “women who re­port­ed hav­ing high lev­els of so­cial strain were more like­ly to have a heart at­tack or die of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease dur­ing near­ly 15 years of fol­low-up than women who did not.”

An­oth­er 2019 study, pub­lished by the Jour­nal of Epi­demi­ol­o­gy Com­mu­ni­ty Health, found that women who re­port­ed high lev­els of so­cial stress had low­er bone den­si­ty six years lat­er. The au­thors spec­u­lat­ed that stress may harm bone health be­cause stress rais­es blood cor­ti­sol lev­els, which may be linked to bone thin­ning.

Defin­ing a dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship

A stress-in­duc­ing re­la­tion­ship can be one with a part­ner, a fam­i­ly mem­ber, a friend or a pro­fes­sion­al col­league. Peo­ple may find them­selves at odds with oth­ers for many rea­sons. The pan­dem­ic and over­all burnout ex­pe­ri­enced by front­line work­ers that has oc­curred in re­cent months may be ex­ac­er­bat­ing fac­tors for some. Re­la­tion­ship stress is of­ten par­tic­u­lar­ly chal­leng­ing for peo­ple who are in a role as care­tak­er for a child, ail­ing adult rel­a­tive or part­ner.

Iden­ti­fy­ing a tox­ic trend

While your re­la­tion­ships with oth­ers may seem like they are out­side of your con­trol, there are things you can do to take them in a more pos­i­tive di­rec­tion. The first step is iden­ti­fy­ing a prob­lem­at­ic dy­nam­ic. A try­ing re­la­tion­ship typ­i­cal­ly comes with some warn­ing signs. These in­clude:

• feel­ing burned out or de­plet­ed af­ter in­ter­ac­tions

• hav­ing neg­a­tive thoughts about the re­la­tion­ship

• feel­ing like the re­la­tion­ship is im­bal­anced — that one per­son gives or takes more than the oth­er

• feel­ing that you are not val­ued or re­spect­ed by the oth­er per­son.

Look at the pat­terns of the re­la­tion­ship over time. Has it been more take than give?

Is it stress­ful? "If you recog­nise those signs in your­self, it’s a red flag to take a clos­er look," says Dr Jen­nifer Gatchel, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try at Har­vard Med­ical School.

HALT

Re­mem­ber the acronym HALT. When you are up­set about some­thing, first ask your­self if you are hun­gry, an­gry, lone­ly, or tired. If so, "halt" in or­der to first ad­dress those needs, and then re­vis­it the prob­lem.

Tips for Heart-Healthy re­la­tion­ships

"Hav­ing nur­tur­ing re­la­tion­ships is pro­tec­tive for our heart health and over­all brain health," says Gatchel. Do your part to help form healthy re­la­tion­ships with oth­ers by prac­tic­ing some good habits:

1. Be an em­pa­thet­ic lis­ten­er.

Prac­tice pay­ing close at­ten­tion when some­one is speak­ing to you, and take the time to un­der­stand what the per­son is say­ing. "This can of­ten be done by re­flect­ing back some of their state­ments to them, to re­in­force that you have got­ten the point and that they are be­ing heard," says Gatchel.

2. Share the spot­light.

When some­one is talk­ing to you about a prob­lem, keep the fo­cus on them; avoid turn­ing it in­to a dis­cus­sion about an is­sue that you might be fac­ing.

3. Stay calm.

If you can, keep calm dur­ing dis­cus­sions to en­sure that they are con­struc­tive rather than de­struc­tive. If you aren’t able to stay calm in the mo­ment, step back and ask to re­vis­it the con­ver­sa­tion lat­er when you are in a bet­ter place.