Don't Let the Threat of Terrorism Literally
Break Your Heart: Taking Care of Yourself in an Uncertain World
Does the ongoing war on terrorism, including the possible
use of biological and chemical attacks on the U.S., have you so stressed
out you are forgoing your exercise routine or turning to junk food for
comfort? If the answer is "yes", you need to consider the possible health
consequences, according to Emory Heart Center cardiologists.
"This is an important time for people to pay attention to their health
and to stay physically strong," says Douglas Morris, M.D., who heads
the Emory Heart Center. "In fact, in an uncertain world, those who are
in good cardiovascular shape may be able to handle whatever circumstances
they find themselves in far better than someone who is out of shape."
Another advantage to concentrating on heart healthy activities, such
as getting at least twenty minutes of aerobic exercise three times or
more a week: exercise has the proven ability to lower stress levels
. "Exercise helps us deal with both physical and psychological stressors
by blunting effects of fight-or-flight chemicals produced in our body
during times of grief and worry," notes Laurence Sperling, M.D., director
of the Emory preventive cardiology program. If you are feeling anxious,
depressed and "heart broken" over the terrorist attacks on America,
your heart may literally suffer if you don't take action to get help."
Unrelieved stress, over time, is a known risk factor of cardiovascular
disease," Dr. Sperling points out.
It is also important to remember that stress can exacerbate pre-existing
physical problems, including heart disease, Dr. Sperling says. "Physical
symptoms related to stress can include chest pain, rapid heartbeat and
shortness of breath. While these may or may not be actual symptoms of
heart problems, they should be checked out by your physician," he adds.
"No one should chalk up chest tightness and/or pain to the ongoing stress
connected to the terrorism attack they should contact their doctor
Using junk food and high calorie, high fat "comfort food" to self soothe
during these anxious times is another potentially heart endangering
response to worry over terrorism. Instead, both Dr. Sperling and Dr.
Morris urge paying attention to a heart- healthy lifestyle with regular
rest, exercise and a low fat, balanced diet.
The Emory HeartWise Risk Reduction program, located at the Emory Clinic
at 1525 Clifton Road, offers health management programs for anyone who
has experienced a heart attack or stroke, or who wants to lower their
risk of heart disease. The program includes a personalized risk reduction
action plan incorporating monitored exercise classes, nutrition counseling,
stress reduction and more.