Managing Stress for a Healthy Heart

Ohio AgrAbility Fact Sheet Series
AEX-982.4
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Date: 
01/26/2012
S. Dee Jepsen, Assistant Professor, State Safety Leader
Kent McGuire, Ohio AgrAbility Program Coordinator
Danielle Poland, Student Intern
Agricultural Safety and Health, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University

Farming can be a consistently stressful occupation. Farmers experience stresses associated with most occupations such as high demand, time pressures, and increased workload; however, farmers have added pressures associated with agriculture, such as uncontrollable weather, machinery breakdowns, variable crop prices, or even economic survival. Farming consistently has one of the highest rates of death due to stress-related conditions like hypertension and heart or artery disease.

The American Heart Association describes a coronary attack (heart attack) as an occurrence that happens when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked. This happens because coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood slowly become thicker and harder from a buildup of plaque that consists of fat, cholesterol, and other substances. A heart attack occurs when the plaque breaks open and a blood clot forms to block the blood flow; damage increases the longer an artery stays blocked. Damaged heart muscles supplied by that artery begin to die, resulting in permanent heart damage. Hypertension is commonly known as "high blood pressure" and is a condition in which the force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke if it is not controlled. For most individuals, living with a few basic principles to prevent stress can greatly reduce the risk of a heart-related health issue.

Manage Stress

An important piece to heart disease prevention is managing stress. Stress makes the heart beat faster to get the body ready for action. People who are stressed all the time secrete a hormone called cortisol that raises blood pressure and causes the body to retain fluids placing excessive stress on the heart. Prolonged high levels of stress cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Damage to arteries
  • Higher cholesterol levels
  • The development and progression of coronary artery disease (atherosclerosis)
  • A weakened immune system

Suggestions for managing stress are:

  • Take time out each day to relax.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle through exercising, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep. 
  • Leave the worksite at lunchtime to take a short walk or relax outside your work environment, taking a 5-minute relaxation break for a relaxation exercise.
  • Control stress at work by switching from caffeinated to decaffeinated coffee beverages.
  • Begin to take note of things that cause you to feel stressed.
  • Take control of your schedule and set realistic goals and expectations.
  • Prioritize what needs to be done each day.
  • Put an emphasis on what was accomplished, and not what failed to be accomplished.
  • Take time to praise yourself for a job well done.
  • Avoid negative "self-talk." Avoid "what-ifs." Avoid focusing on what you do not know or can't control.
  • Accept the fact you may not be able to change certain situations.
  • Get answers to questions that may be worrying you (such as your health).

Getting help:

  • If you are having a hard time controlling vices, such as cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs to reduce your stress, you may need help from a professional to learn how to control your stress.
  • Family counselors can help develop strategies to reduce family stress.
  • Work with your doctors and ask for referrals to find the best way to learn stress management.
  • A business coach can help you get organized with goals, work plans, and setting priorities.

Acknowledgments

This fact sheet was reviewed by Karen Mancl, PhD, Professor, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University; Josh Svarda, Program Coordinator, Easter Seals Work Resource Center; and John Zeller, Rural Rehabilitation Specialist, Ohio AgrAbility.

References

  • American Heart Association. (2009). What is a Heart attack? (10/07LS1466).
  • Cleveland Clinic Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute. Heart and vascular health & prevention. (n.d.). Retrieved from my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/nutrition/antioxidants.aspx.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009, January 15). 5 medication-free strategies to help prevent heart disease. Retrieved from mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease-prevention/WO00041 (no longer available online).

About AgrAbility Based Fact Sheets
These fact sheets were developed to promote success in agriculture for Ohio's farmers and farm families coping with a disability or long-term health condition. AgrAbility offers information and referral materials such as this fact sheet, along with on-site assessment, technical assistance, and awareness in preventing secondary injuries. Fact sheets were developed with funding from NIFA, project number OHON0006.

Ohioline http://ohioline.osu.edu