In today's trying times, heightened levels of stress have become a major part of many people's lives. The current economic situation, daily news events, and the attempts to balance the high demands of today's work place with our personal lives can have some major negative effects on cholesterol levels and heart health in general. See, heightened levels of stress increase the release of a hormone called cortisol in the body - there is a reason why cortisol is known as "the stress hormone."
While cortisol plays an important role in our body's response to stress, it is important to balance it out with relaxation techniques so that the body can "repair" itself after a stressful event. The inability to help our bodies to return to a normal level following a stressful event can bring out negative side effects such as higher blood pressure, lowered immunity levels, and increased abdominal fat. Increased stomach fat is associated with higher heart attack levels, strokes, and higher levels of LDL cholesterol - the bad one, or as my cardiologist likes to call it, "lousy cholesterol."
There are a number of stress management techniques that have proven effective in lowering stress levels and bringing additional balance to your body. I have found a few different simple ways to help me manage my stress levels which are not just fun but have also proven to be a great way to exercise. Taking a 15-20 minutes every few days to center oneself is a great way to reduce stress and lower your heart rate, whether it is done through meditation or through prayer, I have found this to be a very effective and easy way to manage stress. In the past, I have also enjoyed practicing Qigong which helped me improve circulation through breathing techniques, stretching, and meditation exercises. A thirty minute session of Qigong doesn't just leave me centered but also helps me burn lots of calories, build stronger muscles, and give me much more flexibility as I continue to age.
Finally, for me, listening to the right kind of music can also make a big difference in helping me manage stress. Listening to light jazz or spa music has helped me deal with horrible commutes to and from work in the past. Again, you should check with your doctor to make sure that some of these techniques are appropriate for you.
On a personal note, as many of you know, our area was hit with a tremendous amount of snow over the past week. We actually have broken our all time record for amount of snow in one season, and it is only February 11. The one positive thing that has come out of all of this has been that through all my shoveling over the past five days, I have managed to lose three pounds and am down to 173 as measured this morning. I am sure I will head back up in the following days, but for today I will take this win and smile.
Published On: February 11, 2010