17.4% of the Spanish adult population suffers from stress, according to the Health Survey of the Spanish Heart Foundation (ESFEC) 2021 . A cardiovascular risk factor that increases the chances of heart disease. This is stated in the European Guide for Cardiovascular Prevention , and it is that suffering from it means subjecting the body to tensions that can affect cardiac health.
Specifically, stressful situations can affect us by influencing disorders such as high blood pressure. “There are mechanisms that produce a series of characteristic chemical changes due to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system that produces an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, coronary vasoconstriction, etc.”, says psychologist Julia Vidal, an expert in anxiety and stress and member of the Council of Experts of the Spanish Heart Foundation, in this article .
Hence, trying to control stress is key to keeping this risk factor at bay, and to achieve this, experts advise dedicating some time every day to enjoy moments of relaxation. Through this relaxing time we can forget about stress and thus benefit our cardiovascular health. To achieve this, we have some tools that can help us:
– Practice physical exercise. When we play sports we release tensions, reducing stress levels. Therefore, after its practice, the body enters a state of relaxation. It is not the only benefit that the practice of physical exercise brings. It also helps combat other cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.
– Follow a healthy diet. What we eat and drink can influence our body by increasing or decreasing stress levels. Stimulants such as coffee and alcohol increase stress, so the ideal is to reduce their consumption. In addition, a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and fiber, and low in fat and sugar , helps keep stress at bay.
– Get enough sleep. Rest, letting the body get ready to face the day to day, is essential, so we must get enough sleep. Although there is no recommended number of hours that works as an average for everyone, there is a minimum and a maximum that should not be exceeded. Dr. Arrarte Esteban, coordinating cardiologist of the Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation Unit of the General University Hospital of Alicante, states in this article that “various studies, taking into account the individual characteristics of each one, bet on a number of hours of sleep not less than 6 hours, but not more than 10 hours”.
– Practice breathing techniques. A very useful tool for managing stress and anxiety is breathing. Through a method called ‘cardiac coherence breathing’ , a rhythmic and fluid heartbeat pattern is achieved, entering what is called ‘cardiac coherence’ and a state of relaxation and well-being. It involves inhaling through the nose for five seconds, swelling the abdomen, and exhaling through the mouth for another five seconds, contracting the abdomen. Ideally, the duration of the exercise will be 5 minutes.