When you imagine a heart healthy lifestyle, you may think of physical activity, and eating lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein. But what about lowering stress? Many people seem to forget that managing stress is also an important part of a heart healthy lifestyle. Stress can raise your blood pressure and blood glucose levels, and put you at a high risk for heart attack. Since heart disease is a risk factor for diabetes, it is very important to get stress under control so that you can lower your risk for complications.
A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society showed that mindfulness exercises can help manage stress and improve quality of life in overweight and obese women. Researchers at the Penn State College of Medicine looked at a group of 86 overweight and obese women who were similar in age and body mass index (BMI). They checked the subjects’ fasting blood glucose and stress levels, as well as other mental health factors. The women either received 8 weeks of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) classes or standard health education. Labs and surveys on mental health measures were done before the study, at 8 weeks, and at 16 weeks. It was found that all women in the study had better sleep, less stress, and less depression,. However, in the MBSR group, the women also had improved quality of life and lower blood glucose levels.
The researchers suggest that those at risk for diabetes should add a stress management program such as MBSR to their healthy lifestyle.