Excessive stress can lead to high cholesterol, but high cholesterol doesn’t necessarily lead to excessive stress… Unless you’re really worried about it. While high cholesterol needs to be managed as it’s one of the leading causes of stroke, high levels of stress also need to be managed as it’s simply not good for your health. According to Dr. Stuart Seale, not only does stress decrease your ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels, but it also increases ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol too. Let’s dig into the science behind these biological events.
Stress and Cholesterol: A Chain Reaction
First, when we become stressed, our primal ‘fight-or-flight’ response is triggered and our body releases cortisol, the ‘stress hormone.’ The release of this hormone causes blood sugar levels to rise in order to fuel the upcoming fight or flight. However, we seldom react to stress with movement. Instead, we tend to just let ourselves sit and stew over it – but that’s probably the worst thing we can do. When our blood sugar rises consistently due to excessive stress, the unused fuel gradually becomes stored as fat; and when this fat builds up on the walls of our arteries, it puts us at a higher risk of stroke. So here are a couple ways to manage your stress and consequently reduce your risk of stroke.
Fix It with Fitness
One of the best ways to manage stress is with physical activity. For stroke survivors with severe mobility impairment, it can require some creative thinking to reintroduce movement into your regimen. Try assisted treadmill training or water aerobics to gently get your body moving. Even just a little movement can serve as an outlet for stress while burning up some of the excess cortisol running through your body.
For stroke survivors with intermediate to full mobility, try getting 20-30 minutes of moderate physical activity, like brisk walking or swimming, five days of the week. Even if your activity is split up throughout the day, it all helps reduce your cortisol levels.
Meditation as Medication
Meditation is an incredible stress-reducer, and there’s plenty of science to back this one up. You can try fancy meditation techniques if you’re familiar with them, or you can just sit in stillness and focus on your breath for 15-20 minutes. Yes, it’s that simple. Try it for yourself right now. You should feel your whole body relax and decompress within the first 10 breaths.
With some fitness and meditation scheduled into your daily regimen, you can better manage excessive stress and high cholesterol levels that are associated with it. Stress aside, however, please see our separate guide on how to lower your cholesterol levels.
How do you manage stress? Leave us a comment below, we’d love to hear your advice!