Mind Your Health: The Connection Between Stress and Heart Disease

The blockage was so tight, blood was getting through, literally, only one drop  at  a  time. 

An excerpt from my book, It’s Always the Heart….

The blockage was so tight, blood was getting through, literally, only one drop at a time.  How he kept from suffering a massive heart attack in the eight days prior to coming in on his own terms, truly only God knows. It reminded me that even when we make bad decisions that are potentially harmful to our lives, God still protects us.

 The morning after his heart-cath procedure, Mr. Important (as we will call him) confided in me that the natural stresses associated with his thirty-four-year marriage—as well as the relationship(or lack thereof) with his children—had weighed heavily on his chest. Relationships have to be nurtured, and by his own admission, he had always been driven to be superior at providing financially for the loved ones in his life, but rarely nurturing. Time spent at becoming, as he put it, “a self-made man” stole the time away from nurturing relationships with his wife and children.

It had been only three short months since Mr. Important’s stent procedure, when he came in forhis first post-stent evaluation. In stark contrast to his attitude during our first office visit, his hardened heart had already begun softening to God’s Word…. In short, God was leading him to a point of understanding that a long-lasting change in his physical heart would first require a change in his spiritual heart.

The Bible tells us in Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Many times we lose sight of this command because we let the demands and pressures of this world become more important. When our motives become more about “me, me, me” and less about “Him, Him, Him”, stress begins to creep in.

The American Psychological Association has discovered that “prolonged stress due to the pressures at home, on the job, or from other sources can contribute to abnormally high blood pressure and circulation problems”. The American Heart Association believes “stress may affect behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risk.” It’s obvious that stress can impact our heart health. But what do we do about it?

First, let’s address our spiritual condition. Throughout the Bible, the scriptures address the condition of stress, but one of my favorite scriptures is found in Psalm 118:5-6 (ESV). It says, “out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Instead of living in stress, call out to the Lord and He will set you free. It may sound too simple for some of our over-complicated lives, but isn’t that the beauty of this passage? God’s answer to our mounds and mounds of worry, pressure, and stress isn’t to complicate our lives even further, but to simplify them. SIMPLY CALL ON HIM, and He will set you free.

Now that we’ve addressed the spiritual condition of the heart, we also need to address the physical condition. How you handle stress also influences your cardiovascular system’s response. So, it’s important that we handle stress in a healthy manner. Below are a few tips for on managing stress.

1)     Follow a Regular Sleep Routine

        Regular sleep can help you decompress and rejuvenate after a stressful day.

2)     Exercise Regularly

        The endorphins released when exercising can help improve your stress levels.

3)     Practice Deep Breathing

Take a few minutes every day and practice breathing in through your nose, letting your   abdomen expand and hold your breath for a count of three. Then, breathe out slowly through your mouth. Repeat this 3-5 times.

4)     Ask For Help

Sometimes we need a support network that can offer alternative strategies to help manage stress levels.