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Work Strife Stresses the Heart
Date:4/24/2009

increase unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking more, drinking more alcohol and exercising less.

Whatever the exact cause, Williams said, it's clear that "people under stress are at high risk for developing heart disease." And, researchers aren't clear just what role stress management techniques might have.

"We don't know for sure whether teaching people to manage job stress better will reduce the risk of heart disease," Williams said. "Smaller studies show that training to reduce stress reduces some of the markers of heart disease, which suggests that we should be able to show a reduction in heart disease risk."

Both Lucks and Williams recommended exercising, because it helps to reduce stress and anxiety levels and improves cardiovascular health. Lucks said that some of his patients try various techniques, such as tai chi, meditation, biofeedback and relaxation exercises, though he said he did not know if the techniques were effective.

Williams and his wife, Virginia, developed their own stress management program, called Williams Life Skills, that teaches people the steps they can take to better control stress. He said they teach people to analyze each situation to see if it's something they can change, if it's something they should change or if it's something that cannot be changed. For situations that can't be changed, people learn how to calm themselves down using meditation, exercise and relaxation," he said.

The bottom line? "People need to be aware that there's a causal link between stress and heart disease," Lucks said. "Stress is a chronic thing, and it's underestimated from a cardiac standpoint."

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on coping with stress.



SOURCES: Matthew Lucks, M.D., c
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