Stress less this September

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With the end of summer approaching, some people look forward to resuming their regular autumn routines, while others find that stress and chaos begin when the summer ends. Settling the kids into their school schedule and the start of sports, dance and extracurricular activities takes an enormous amount of time and effort. Combining these endeavors while juggling jobs, personal needs and other responsibilities may inadvertently raise your blood pressure.

Although stress is not traditionally considered a risk factor for developing high blood pressure, it is known to play a role in general wellness. Persistently high levels of cortisol and adrenaline can weaken your immune system and leave you susceptible to a variety of ailments. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) can silently thicken and harden arteries, form an aneurysm, weaken the blood vessels in eyes, kidneys, and other organs, or affect memory and the ability to think.

High blood pressure has been identified as the leading cause of stroke and a major cause of heart attack, yet this silent disease does not traditionally present any noticeable symptoms. The only way to identify your risk for hypertension is through regular blood pressure monitoring.

While your physician will determine the best course of treatment for stress or high blood pressure, there are a number of ways to reduce your stress levels and risk of hypertension:

Modify your diet. Whenever possible, avoid the excess salt found in processed, preserved, canned, or bottled foods. Daily sodium intake exceeding 1100 to 1500 milligrams may contribute to elevated blood pressure measurements. Adding protein, plants including leafy green vegetables, and fiber to your diet and reducing consumption of sugar, starches and caffeine will increase your overall wellness.

Enjoy moderate exercise. Something as simple as taking a 30-minute walk several times a week, will increase your energy, improve your health and contribute to your overall sense of well-being.

Ask for help. While raising a young family is both rewarding and challenging, assuming responsibility for the care of aging parents may add to daily stress. Resources such as the Farmington Valley VNA’s monthly Caregiver Support Group offer guidance and support.

Take care of yourself. Working adults with family responsibilities rarely put their own health needs first. Keep tabs on your blood pressure by having it checked by a Registered Nurse at one of the dozens of free clinics the Farmington Valley VNA hosts weekly in libraries, community centers and town halls throughout the Farmington Valley region.

More than 30 percent of adults in the United States are currently undergoing treatment for hypertension. You don’t have to be one of them. Know your risk factors, lower your stress level, monitor your health and know that the Farmington Valley VNA is available to assist!