Reduce Stress at Work for a Healthy Heart

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Is cleaning out the refrigerator (yes, including that green glob at the back) more appealing than putting up with stress at work? If so, it may be time to save your sanity, and maybe your heart.

Doctors have always worried about men’s and women’s hearts caving in to job stress, because those with a high job strain face up to a 40 percent higher risk of heart attacks and surgery for blocked arteries.

So what should you do? Try these strategies to reduce stress on the job:

  • Don’t mutter, “Calm down.” Move. The best way to counter the fight-or-flight stress response is to get active. Do push-ups against your office wall. Hike the hallways or walk around the block. Activity is a BOGO: You relieve tension and condition your heart.
  • Add color. Take charge of your space. Splashes of color from posters, photos, flowers or even a throw rug can improve your mood and your productivity. A combination of red and green is better than dull white, black and brown. In one study, those muted colors made people duller, too, scoring 12 points lower on IQ tests.
  • Take time for tea. Polyphenols in black tea may reduce stress hormones in your blood and help your body shed tension faster.
  • Instead of upsetting family life every night by taking work home (50 percent of people do), declare once a week official “FAB” night, as in Forget About Business. Watch a funny movie together. Tell jokes at dinner. Laugh it up. You’ll feel your tension fade, and your family will draw closer.

Additionally, research shows that – much like a healthy diet and regular exercise – a joyful, enthusiastic disposition and positive attitude may help keep your heart free of disease.

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In one 10-year study, people who scored high in emotions like joy, enthusiasm and contentment had a much lower incidence of coronary heart disease compared with folks who experienced those good feelings less frequently. More research is needed to confirm the link between a positive attitude and a healthy, good heart, but other research has already done a pretty good job proving the other side of the coin – that negative emotions like anger, hostility and depression can increase the risk of heart disease.

In addition to setting the stage for a good heart, studies have shown that happiness can boost your immune system, nip your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, and help you live longer in general. And who doesn’t want to feel happy, anyway? It certainly makes life easier.

This content originally appeared on Sharecare.com.

For more healthy tips and medical information, continue to check in on the Denton Regional Urgent Care blog. At Denton Regional Urgent Care, we have physicians that are board-eligible in family medicine or emergency medicine. We offer convenient access to the expert care you need right when you need it, even after hours or on the weekend as well.

Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.

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What the new blood pressure guidelines mean for you

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For the first time in 14 years, the American Heart Association changed their blood pressure guidelines. The new guidelines have lowered the number for what’s considered high blood pressure, also called hypertension. The result: Nearly half of American adults are now considered hypertensive.

Find out more about the new guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, plus how to check your numbers and lower your hypertension risk.

How to understand your numbers
Blood pressure is depicted as a fraction or a division equation, with a larger number on top and a small number on the bottom, separated by a slash.

The top number is systolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure inside the arteries when the heart contracts or beats. The bottom number, diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in the arteries at rest, between heartbeats. So, a blood pressure reading that’s 120/80 means the systolic blood pressure is 120 and diastolic is 80.

“If your blood pressure is high, your heart muscle is pumping against high resistance,” explains Khalil Afsh, MD, an internist and clinical lipidologist with Orange Park Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida.

Given enough time pumping against high resistance, says Dr. Afsh, the heart will hypertrophy, or grow bigger. This can lead to impaired blood flow, arrhythmia and cardiac arrest.

Under the new guidelines, approximately 103 million adults in the US have high blood pressure. Prior to the new guideline release, about 70 million Americans had hypertension. It’s in your best interest to know your numbers because high blood pressure can lead to a host of problems, such as artery damage, stroke, heart attack and even kidney and eye damage.

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What’s changed under the new guidelines
The guidelines for what’s considered normal blood pressure have remained the same: A blood pressure reading of less than 120 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic is considered normal. However, the new guidelines now define hypertension as a reading above 130 mm Hg systolic or 80 mm Hg diastolic. This is a change from the old definition of hypertension—140/90 and higher.

Under new guidelines, 46 percent of American adults will be considered hypertensive, up from 32 percent under old guidelines.

The new guidelines also eliminated the category of prehypertension, once defined as a blood pressure reading between 120 and 139 systolic or 80 to 89 diastolic. Now, the guidelines list:

  • Elevated: Systolic between 120 and 129 and diastolic less than 80
  • Stage 1: Systolic between 130 and 139 or diastolic between 80-89
  • Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90—previously classified as stage 1

If your reading shows systolic blood pressure above 180 or diastolic above 120, this is considered a hypertensive crisis, and patients should seek prompt medical care.

Research suggests complications can arise before blood pressure reaches 140/90. These changes will encourage early intervention to prevent any further increase in blood pressure levels and reduce the likelihood of hypertension-related complications, like stroke, vision loss and heart attack.

But pressure that’s too low can cause its own set of problems. Hypotension, or low blood pressure, can lead to blurry vision, confusion, dizziness, fainting, lightheadedness, nausea and vomiting, fatigue and weakness. Sudden and drastic drops in blood pressure can starve vital organs like the heart and brain of oxygen. Hypotension, unlike hypertension, doesn’t have a hard and fast range. As long as your low blood pressure doesn’t cause any symptoms, you don’t need to worry.

Tools of the trade: How to measure your blood pressure
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury or mm Hg. Why mercury? Take a closer look at the blood pressure cuff the nurse or doctor puts around your arm. The cuff is called a sphygmomanometer and, even today, many contain mercury to measure barometric pressure in the arteries, according to Afsh.

The cuff is inflated to squeeze the artery and prevent blood from flowing, then the air is released. When the blood starts flowing again, the doctor or nurse will look at the pressure reading and determine the systolic blood pressure. “When the pulse goes away, we’re measuring diastolic blood pressure,” says Afsh.

Afsh says he tests blood pressure at least once more after a reading comes back high. “When someone comes to our practice and we find high blood pressure, we ask the patient to relax and then measure again,” he says. “Anxiety can raise blood pressure.”

Talking while your blood pressure is being monitored or having a full bladder can also throw the reading off. Sometimes someone can have high blood pressure in one arm and not the other due to a problem with their veins, adds Afsh. “I usually go with the lower reading because when you have high blood pressure in one arm, there’s probably a blockage.”

You might want to get a device to monitor your blood pressure at home. Many people’s readings are higher in the doctor’s office than they are at home because doctors make them nervous; it’s a phenomenon known as white coat hypertension.

Look for a device that takes measurements from the upper arm and can be used on both arms. It’s a good idea to bring the device to your healthcare provider’s office to make sure it works correctly and you know how to use it properly.

What you can do about high blood pressure
There is no cure for high blood pressure, but a combination of lifestyle modifications and medication can help manage the condition, and reduce your risk of complications. Your doctor is most adept to guide you through the changes you should be making, which might include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Limiting salt intake
  • Scaling back alcohol consumption
  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Upping daily physical activity
  • Maintaining healthy weight
  • Sticking to your medication schedule

This content originally appeared on Sharecare.com.

For more healthy tips and medical information, continue to check in on the Denton Regional Urgent Care blog. At Denton Regional Urgent Care, we have physicians that are board-eligible in family medicine or emergency medicine. We offer convenient access to the expert care you need right when you need it, even after hours or on the weekend as well.

Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.