Veto your stress | Managing a high-stress job

Photo credit: CBSNews.comBeing the President of the United States is a difficult and often-times stressful job. Recent research even suggests that presidents age two years for every average person’s one year. Sometimes that stress and aging can be seen outwardly, but what effect is this having on their health and heart?

Barry Franklin, Ph.D., Director, Preventive Cardiology & Cardiac Rehabilitation, discusses how high-stress jobs can lead to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases:

Several studies now suggest that high-stress jobs can lead to an increased risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases. This is likely attributed to the fact that elevated stress can trigger increases in heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol, epinephrine levels, blood clotting and vascular dysfunction.

Two classic studies showed that if you get in an angry confrontation with another person, your likelihood of experiencing a heart attack in the next hour transiently increases 3 to 9-fold ! Chronic stress can also foster unhealthy behaviors such as cigarette smoking, sedentary living or poor eating habits; it can hinder compliance to prescribed medications and recommended lifestyle changes; and, it can cause adverse biological/physiological responses that may increase the demands on the heart, triggering threatening heart rhythm irregularities, plaque rupture and the potential for abnormal blood clotting. In addition, high-stress situations for individuals with cardiovascular disease have a much higher risk of resulting in an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke due to the increased pressure on the arteries traveling to the brain.

As a result, I counsel our cardiac patients at Beaumont to learn to respond (intelligently) to stressful situations, rather than react to them.

The bottom line? Stress kills. It also steals the joy from life. Stress is in everyone’s life. The key is managing it. Some suggestions to reduce stress include:

  • get physical
  • get outdoors
  • communicate (isolation leads to higher stress levels)
  • start rising out of bed a little earlier to give yourself time for a short morning walk.

“The best remedy for a short temper is a long walk.” – Jacqueline Schiff

Reader feedback: What’s the most stressful part about your job? How do you unwind after a long day’s work?

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