Your Health | 6 years ago

Get Your OM On: De Stressing for Heart Health

Stress can do a number on your heart. Try these easy meditation tips to find your zen and protect your heart health.

A healthy heart lets you stay focused on doing what you love. 

You know the feeling: pounding heart, sweaty palms, fast breathing. Stress is known to wreak havoc all over the body, but how is it affecting your heart – and what can you do to keep it in check? “Studies over the past few years have linked depression and anger to the precursors for heart disease,” says Richard Musialowski, MD, a cardiologist with Carolinas HealthCare System’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute. Why? Both are stressors on the body, increasing cortisol (the stress hormone), blood pressure and even glucose levels. All of this taxes your heart over time. Everyday stressors affect your ticker, too – a traffic-jammed commute, a bad day at the office, an unsatisfactory home life. “Emotional stress causes blood pressure to spike and your heart to race,” Dr. Musialowski says. So how do you reduce stress and give your heart a rest? Dr. Musialowski says it’s important to indulge in interests that you truly enjoy. Anything that relieves stress in a healthy way is a good choice. “Exercise is a big one, as well as practices like yoga and meditation to lower blood pressure,” he adds.

Try these meditation styles to de-stress:

Escape Reality. Often called “journey meditation,” this technique can be guided or done alone. Sit quietly, close your eyes and envision yourself in a place that brings you absolute joy. Maybe it’s the beach, on a mountaintop or by a babbling brook. Focus on details like the sand beneath your feet, the smell of pine or the sound of water flowing over stone to make it feel as real as possible.

Breathe Deep. Exhale the tension right out of your body. This one is perfect for people who work a lot or have trouble falling asleep. The best part? It takes less than five minutes to reach a state of calm. Using two fingers of your left hand, plug your left nostril and inhale for a count of four, hold this breath for a count of three, then remove your fingers and exhale. Take two fingers of your right hand, plug your right nostril and repeat. Do this until you feel perfectly calm.

Find Nature. You can practice this one by enjoying a walk through the woods, a park or even your backyard garden. The key is to heighten your senses; be an active participant in the experience, not passive. Study the leaves on the trees (What color are they? What shape?), the petals on a flower, the subtle breezes around you. It’s amazing how much clarity and relaxation we can find when we take the time to – literally – slow down and smell the flowers. Meditating can be hard when you first start out, but podcasts or guided meditation videos can help. So what are you waiting for? Go out and get your OM on.