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Give Your Heart a Hand and Reduce Stress, Too

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With genetics and an incredibly busy job standing in my way, it takes a lot of planning and self-discipline for me to guard against heart disease, let alone the stress I experience every day.

When considering heart health and women, the role of stress cannot be over-emphasized.
Stress, in addition to other factors like smoking, diet, exercise and genetics all contribute to heart disease.

According to the 2008 Stress in America survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), women reported experiencing stress at higher levels than men, with 33% of women reporting an average stress level of 8 or above on a 10-point scale, versus 27% of men.

There is good news. Taking a proactive role in your health care, including eating well and exercising regularly can help women successfully manage their stress levels, which minimizes the risk of heart disease.

Interestingly enough, the same tools used to prevent stress--yoga, exercise and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables--are also linked to improving heart health in women.

The APA also offers some additional tips to help manage your stress levels:

• Understand how you experience stress and use this information to find ways to avoid the onset of these emotions

• Identify your sources of stress

•Learn how you deal with stress. Are you using unhealthy behaviors (like smoking, drinking or over- and under-eating) to manage your feelings?

• Seek out healthy ways to manage stress. Try meditation, exercise or talking about your concerns with friends and family

• Take care of your health. Eat well, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and exercise on a regular basis

To learn more about stress and how you can find ways to manage it in your life, go to the APA’s help center at www.apahelpcenter.org.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.