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Stress Puts The Heart At Risk: 12 Ways To Chill Out

Health     First Posted: 02/21/11 08:25 AM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 07:35 PM ET

Can stress hurt your heart?

The evidence is piling up that the answer is -- yes, stress is bad for your ticker.

"There are studies to show that stress is comparable to other risk factors that we traditionally think of as major, like hypertension, poor diet, and lack of exercise," says Kathi Heffner, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at the Rochester Center for Mind-Body Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

Here are 12 steps you can take to fight stress and protect your heart.

Focus On Relaxation
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Stress-reduction techniques and exercises such as yoga, meditation, and tai chi have been shown to lower stress hormones and bolster immune function, says Heffner.

In one study, people who practiced yoga regularly experienced a decrease in some of their body's inflammatory responses. Inflammation is emerging as a key culprit in heart disease, among many other chronic conditions.

"Dedicating a certain time of the day to focus on your body and on actually relaxing, (not) caring about the other things that are going on your day, is very useful," says John Simmons Jr., M.D., assistant professor of family medicine at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in Bryan.

More from Health.com:
How Depression Hurts Your Heart
10 Heart-Healthy Rules to Live By
Head-to-Toe Solutions for Stress
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Filed by Nicholas Miriello  |