It’s been long assumed that the daily stresses of dealing with a terrible boss at work, sitting in rush-hour traffic or running late to an important lunch meeting can weigh heavy on your heart.
But it’s not the actual number of stressful events that puts a person at higher risk for heart disease and premature death – as many believe.
In fact, according to researchers from Penn State University and Columbia University, it’s actually people who perceive an event to be stressful and exhibit more negative emotions that are more at risk for cardiovascular diseases.
The joint study explored the effect of daily stress on heart rate variability, according to Newsmax.com. Heart rate variability determines the heart’s ability to respond to challenges. Therefore, according to Nancy L. Sin from Penn State, the higher the heart rate variability, the less risk of heart disease and premature death.
The study included data from 909 participants ages 35 to 85 across the country. Each participant answered questions over the phone about their stressful experiences during an eight-day period. Their heart’s activity was also measured with an electrocardiogram.
The participants rated each stressful experience as “not at all stressful,” “not very stressful,” “somewhat stressful” or “very stressful.” They also talked about any negative feelings they shared during the day.
On average, according to the study, the participants had one stressful experience on nearly half of the interview days. These were rated generally as “somewhat” stressful.
Those who perceived the events to be stressful had a lower heart rate variability, which puts them at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease.
“These results tell us that a person’s perceptions and emotional reactions to stressful events are more important than exposure to stress per se,” Sin said. “This adds to the evidence that minor hassles might pile up to influence health.”
Here are some tips to manage stress throughout the day:
- Find a work-life balance by analyzing how you spend you time each day.
- Make sure to get enough sleep so your body can recover from the day’s stress while you’re sleeping. It’s also helpful to write down what you’re worried about before bed so you can let it go while you’re sleeping.
- Try kickboxing, Zumba or other workouts known to help reduce stress levels.
- Reevaluate your purpose in life by connecting with family or friends, spirituality or community service.
- Switch up your diet to include more health foods and limiting the amount of alcohol you consume.