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Managing Congestive Heart Failure and Stress

stressed senior woman

Between bills, bad traffic, work-related stress, and family dramas, most adults will confront panic-inducing triggers at least once every day. While you may not be able to control these stressful events, you can control your reactions to them. For some, like those with congestive heart failure (CHF), learning how to manage stress is not optional. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how stress can eat at your health, why those with congestive heart failure should take extra care against chronic stress, and tips on how to manage both conditions.

Chronic Stress & CHF: The Relationship

You feel your breath quicken and heart begin to race. Your muscles are tense and sweat is coating your palms, neck, and lower back. As you give yourself over to the building anxiety, your body starts to take a fight-or-flight response. When this happens, your body will automatically release a chemical cocktail of cortisol and adrenaline—preparing you for action. 

Unfortunately, your body’s response to stress can be counterproductive and has been linked to a wide range of harmful health problems. For those living with a heart condition, day-to-day and/or chronic stress—triggered by clingy family, an overbearing boss, or bad traffic—can exacerbate symptoms and put you at higher risk of developing serious heart complications. 

How Stress can Affect CHF

A stressful situation can set off a chain of events that will ultimately speed up your heart rate and increase blood pressure. This reaction in someone with congestive heart failure (CHF) is dangerous. CHF is a chronic condition in which the heart struggles to effectively pump enough blood throughout the body. On an average, stress-free day, a person with CHF could still experience fight-or-flight symptoms like shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat. Under strenuous circumstances where the body prepares for action, CHF patients will likely experience exacerbations of their condition and could potentially go into cardiac arrest. So, how can someone with CHF protect their heart and manage their fight-or-flight response when stressful events can’t be controlled? It starts with recognizing the consequences and controlling your reactions. 

Protecting Your Heart & Managing Your Stress

While everyone responds to stress differently, there are some ways that you can manage your heart rate, anxiety, and anger. Here are some steps you can take to protect your heart from stressful events:

Get Professional Advice

Taking the time to discuss stress levels with a primary care provider or therapist can help you find proactive ways to handle day-to-day responses to stress. This is incredibly important for CHF patients already dealing with additional risk factors for heart disease, like obesity or high blood pressure. What’s more, the act of simply reaching out to someone for advice can help spur your lifestyle changes and potentially make you a happier and healthier person.

Meditate & Practice Deep Breathing 

When dealing with in-the-moment stress, it’s easy to let adrenaline take control of your response. Meditating and deep breathing exercises are a few methods that can help you take back control during a fight-or-flight response. These exercises are designed to help you cope with stress, allowing you to focus and concentrate on your breathing. Deep belly breathing through your nose to the count of three is one of many practices that can help regulate heart rate and hyperventilation. 

Create Positive Habits

The power of positive thinking is one therapy that many people take for granted. By redirecting your pessimistic thoughts to a more optimistic future, you can recognize your negative reactions to day-to-day stressors and become more mindful of situations where stress isn’t appropriate. 

Avoid Self-Created Stress

In addition to thinking positively, try noting down the things in your life that most often trigger anxiety. This self-reflective exercise can help you avoid those same stressful events in the future or learn ways to cope with feelings prior to the event. For example, if you know that presenting a work project will stress you out, then proactively take time to prepare for the project and practice deep breathing exercises before the big day.

DispatchHealth’s In-Home Care

No one is perfect, and stress is a part of life. If you ever find that you’re experiencing CHF exacerbations in response to a stressful event, reach out to DispatchHealth. We are an on-demand, healthcare response team that provides acute care, treatment, and testing to people in the comfort of their homes or place of need. This personalized service has helped reduce unnecessary ER visits and the stress that accompanies those visits for people of all ages. 

advanced care patient

To learn more about how DispatchHealth can help you and how we’re responding to COVID-19 click here. Requesting care is as easy as contacting us via phone, mobile app, or website

Sources

DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies. 

Sources referenced in this article: 

  1. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=2171#:~:text=Studies%20suggest%20that%20the%20high,plaque%20deposits%20in%20the%20arteries.
  2. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health#:~:text=More%20research%20is%20needed%20to,smoking%2C%20physical%20inactivity%20and%20overeating.
  3. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/risk-factors-for-heart-disease-dont-underestimate-stress
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/stress-and-your-heart

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