Start the year off smartly with our daily tips to better health and beauty! We're kicking off 2013 with 31 days of No More Excuses. Each day, you'll get expert advice on a bad habit you can easily fix, for a healthier, more beautiful you.
All good when we need to fight or run to defend ourselves or push a friend out of the path of an oncoming car. We can ease up afterward, go “Whew!” and let our parasympathetic nervous system take over to slow the heartbeat, relax the blood vessels, lower blood pressure and calm the body down.For some people, the effect is swift and direct. We get anxious, angry, frustrated or frightened, and our sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear and pours adrenaline, norepinephrine, cortisol and other fight-or-flight hormones into our bloodstream. Our hearts beat faster, our arteries constrict or widen depending on where blood needs to go, and our kidneys retain fluids and salt to increase blood volume.
But it’s not good when the alarm gets tripped chronically for a long list of reasons: money’s tight, the mortgage is due, you’re angry with your partner, you’re worried about your kids, you hate your job but you’re terrified of losing it.
The frequent (or, for some of us, constant) bombardment of stress hormones and other emergency-strength biochemicals can inflame or damage the arteries and cause smaller blood vessels to burst, or to thicken and stiffen to withstand the assault.
Your heart muscle can suffer from overexertion. Your whole cardiovascular system is working too hard and eventually your body may simply crank up your resting heart rate and blood pressure in response.
Here are healthy ways to hit the reset button, and dial down your blood pressure:
Learn (your own) body language. If you’re the type who doesn’t realize you’re tense until the pencil snaps in your hand, pay more attention, says Michael McKee, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Psychiatry and Psychology and author of “Stress and Your Body, And What to Do About It.” Practice stopping each time you look at your watch or hang up the phone or check your e-mail, and see how your body is doing. Is your neck tight? Is your stomach churning? Are you clenching your fists? These are all signs that something is making you and your body unhappy. You can do wonders for your body, your blood pressure included, simply by telling yourself, “I can leave my body out of this.”
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