When you've been through narcissistic abuse, you've been through hell. And one of the worst parts of it is that it can literally damage every area of your life - even your physical health. But did you know that you may have the ability to make some positive changes there? It's true.
In fact, one study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine has indicated that once anxiety and depression sets in, you've unleashed the possibility that you'll develop heart disease in the future - and we all know that anxiety and depression are standard issues for those of us who have experienced these toxic relationships.
We all know some of the factors that contribute to heart disease - primarily genetics and our poor food consumption (or lack of healthy foods in our diets). But most people never consider sheer stress and anxiety as a source of actual damage to their body's heart.
The Connection Between Disease and Depression
The study - carried out at the School of Population Health of the University of Queensland in Australia, was focused on women over 40 who had experienced stress but who had no sign of heart disease. Over time, their depression and anxiety seems to be a factor in the development of heart disease.
It was a 15-year look at how heart disease developed in these women. Researchers were looking for both depression and anxiety combined as a contributing factor.
What they found was that in the women who were newly diagnosed with heart disease during the study, they were more likely to have both depression and anxiety.
What scientists concluded is that when you have these types of mental health issues to fight in your life, your nervous system can't perform accurately. And when you're depressed, you tend to lack physical activity, engage in unhealthy food, cigarette and alcohol addictions, and neglect your overall well being.
Another 10-year study by the Heart Foundation found that heart attacks can occur from major life traumas, such as the death of someone you love, disasters of nature like hurricanes, tornadoes, etc., and domestic terror attacks.
The study also found that chronic stress - especially in women over the age of 45 - contributed to more heart problems as well. But that doesn't let men off the hook, though.
No study to date has singled out stress as the sole determining factor for having heart disease, but there's no mistaking the fact that it can contribute to it. It could be because depression and anxiety cause poor self-care behaviors.
One thing doctors know is that a large number of patients' visits to the doctor are due to chronic stress. It can take a toll on your body, causing fatigue, panic attacks, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and more.
What happens when you get stressed is that your body experiences a fight or flight reaction. Your adrenaline gets pumping and you tense up. Your heart rate soars. Fat gets released into your blood because it's used to give you a jolt of energy. Even your blood clots easier.
This wouldn't be a problem for your heart if it happened once in awhile, but for many individuals, depression and anxiety is a never-ending problem. Your heart needs rest and relaxation.
It shouldn't always be battling increased blood pressure, a barrage of cholesterol, and rapid heart beat. What will happen is that your heart might start beating abnormally more often than not. Your arteries can thicken, too - setting you up for a heart attack or stroke.
Gauging Your Stress Level for Heart Health
You may or may not have an issue where stress - in the form of depression and anxiety - is affecting your heart health. Some people have minor stress while others are mired in it and don't even realize how bad it's become.
Ask yourself if you've been going through a lot of traumatic, nerve-wracking or frustrating situations in the past year. That might include:
- Changing jobs, having stress in an existing one, or having no job
- Adding to your family either with a birth or marriage
- Losing a loved one or a good friend
- Long health issues
- Verbal/emotional abuse
- Struggling in a relationship in other ways
- Moving to a new home
- Continual stress like traffic
- Being sued
- Struggling with money
Think about how you've physically felt lately. Stress is evident in our minds, but sometimes we overlook the physical effect until it's too late. If you're burdened by an unhealthy amount of stress, you might notice a few common stress signs early on.
Your jaw might hurt in the morning. This is a sign you're clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth at night. You might also suffer from headaches and feel stiff in your neck area.
As stress really takes a toll on your body, symptoms get more serious. You might have dizzy spells, insomnia, feelings of panic attacks where your heart is racing, you're sweating and you feel nauseous.
Ways to Cope With High or Chronic Stress
If you make a decision that stress might be an issue for you, then you have to see if you're capable of getting it under control so that your heart is protected and you're not setting yourself up for a heart attack or stroke.
First, there are some things you don't want to do when it comes to managing your stress.
- Don't take the route of asking your doctor to let you pop a pill for your stress unless it's a last option. Pills just mask a problem - they don't help you learn to cope.
- Don't use food to help you get in a better mood. The comfort food that many people use to self medicate during stress only causes more problems for your health.
- Never turn to cigarettes and alcohol (or drugs) to help ease your anxiety. None of these things assists you in building a healthier heart. They just do more damage to your body.
Exercise by itself helps your heart - but it also releases endorphins, which help your stress levels plummet back to a manageable level. You can get as little as 20 minutes of exercise a day to reap the benefits of exercise.
Practice good time management. Whether you're rushing around because you've overscheduled yourself or you've procrastinated to a point where you're now panicked, a lack of time is one of the top stressors most people list about their lives.
Implement good sleep hygiene. That means you're protecting your heart by getting plenty of Zs at night. You can't function properly and handle stress gracefully when you're running on empty.
Just as not getting plenty of sleep can be a problem, it can also be a problem if you get too much sleep. That's a sign of depression, so if you can't get out of bed and face the day, it might be time to call the doctor and set up an appointment for professional help.
Eliminate any stress that you can. That might include:
- Tasks at your job that you can delegate
- After school activities
- Community commitments
- Chores that others can help with
- Toxic relationships that bring you down
- Drains on your financial stores
Start replacing bad habits with good habits. Things like nutrition may not sound like it affects stress levels (and in turn heart health), but it does. When you feel like your energy is drained because you've crashed from a sugar high, and you're not tired - it makes you unable to handle stress as well.
Engage in specific stress relief measures. For some, it might be:
Learn how to say no to other peoples' demands. You might have people from your personal life, from your child's school, from your church, or from work trying to get you to take on more responsibilities. If you need less stress, don't be afraid to say no.
If anger is your primary reaction, then you need to focus on anger management so that you can control your reactions to the daily stress that you undergo. And let go of any grudges you've been holding against other people because it only wears you down physically and emotionally.
Embracing a Positive Mindset
It's been proven that optimists live longer than pessimists. That's because those who look at life with a glad half empty are often suffering from heart sabotaging issues like depression and anxiety.
But it's not as easy as flipping a switch and suddenly thinking everything is all rainbows and unicorns. In fact, you're not supposed to wear rose-colored glasses and be fake about how great life is, either.
What you need to do is work on a mindset where you're realistic about what life has given you and then tackle it with a positive attitude that you're capable of working through any issues that arise.
There's always going to be stress in your life. It's unavoidable as a whole. But with the right attitude, you can meet situations head to head and handle them with ease.
Every day you need to reiterate to yourself that you're capable of handling whatever arises. Stay level-headed about what's going on. Don't overreact and make a bigger deal out of something than it really is.
Take a deep breath and look at whatever's happening and think logically about how you can make it better. Don't let feelings of doom and gloom overrun your thoughts.
Chances are the worst-case scenario will never happen, and even if it did, it's not the end of the world. You'll recover from it. How can you get a better mindset that helps vaccinate you against stress and protect your heart?
- Practice positive affirmations. This is when you vocally and mentally reaffirm to yourself that things are going to be okay. Some people start their day off this way and end it this way - or call on positive affirmations during times of crisis.
- Smile. Research shows that smiling actually improves your stress handling abilities - but not just any smile will do. It needs to be a full smile where your eyes and the muscles around the mouth actually change shape.
- Find ways to laugh a lot. Whether it's through a funny show on TV or a date night out to a live comedy club, laughter can help people physically and emotionally. When you laugh, the lining of your blood vessels dilates and improves blood flow.
Finding ways to manage your stress won't just ensure that your heart is protected. It's going to give you a better quality of life, which will improve your relationships, too.
You probably know that any form of physical activity beats sitting on the couch if you want to look and feel younger. However, some exercises are more effective than others. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic figured out how you can design your workouts to reverse the clock as much as possible in as little time as possible.
The Mayo team tested 3 different exercise programs on men and women under 30 and over 65. After 12 weeks, high intensity interval training (HIIT) proved to be the anti-aging winner, compared to lighter cycling and lifting or strength training alone.
That's because HIIT made changes at the cellular level, enhancing mitochondrial function. Participants over 65 had a 69% increase in their cells' ability to take in oxygen and produce energy, while those under 30 had a 49% boost.
While that might sound a little technical, it means slowing down age-related physical decline, including osteoporosis, arthritis, hypertension, heart conditions, and digestive issues.
Learn how to stay young. Follow these guidelines for a workout program that reverses aging.
High Intensity Interval Training to Fight Aging
1. Understand the concept. High intensity interval training means alternating between short periods of intense exercise and gentler activities. In the Mayo study, this involved 4 minutes of fast cycling followed by 3 minutes of easy cycling repeated 4 times.
2. Be consistent. You'll need to do HIIT regularly to see results. Aim for at least 2 to 3 workouts each week.
3. Proceed gradually. Avoid injuries by giving your body time to adapt. You might start out with just a few minutes of HIIT, and work your way up slowly to 15 or 20 minutes.
4. Rest up. The gentle periods are just as important as the more intense phase. That's when your body becomes conditioned to return to your normal heart rate quickly.
Strength Training to Fight Aging
1. Build muscle. Strength training may not rival HIIT for cellular changes, but it's good at slowing down age-related muscle loss. Otherwise, most adults over 30 lose about 5% each decade.
2. Challenge yourself. Heavier weights and lower repetitions will give you faster results. Try picking the biggest dumbbell that you can lift safely 4 to 8 times.
3. Take time off. Work hard at the gym, but rest between sessions so muscles can heal and grow. Take a day of rest or do other activities like biking or running.
Other Anti-Aging Training Tips
1. Steady yourself. Training for balance will protect you from falls and may help prevent some forms of dementia. Take a yoga class or practice standing on one foot while you brew coffee.
2. Stand tall. Good posture helps you to look younger and puts less strain on your spine. It also enhances bodily functions like respiration, circulation, and digestion.
3. Target your whole body. Include lots of full body exercises in your workout. You'll burn more calories and increase your coordination. Plus, you'll see more gains in functional fitness that prepares you to handle real-life tasks like vacuuming and yard work.
4. Engage your brain. Your mental health matters too. In addition to exercising your brain with word puzzles, try physical activities that make you think, like waltzing or playing tennis.
5. Be social. Connecting with others is like a fountain of youth. Work out with a buddy or go running with your spouse.
Any work out can help you manage your weight and reduce inflammation, but HIIT does more to maintain healthy cell functions as you grow older. Make high intensity interval training part of your formula for fitness and anti-aging.
Whether your loved one is dealing with an abusive relationship - or an illness, addiction, career change, or other serious issues, it's hard to watch them suffer. You want to wave a magic wand that makes them happy and solves their issues. However, you don't have a magic wand. So what can you do?
When your loved one is struggling, you can help in several ways:
1. Avoid letting your fear take over. You may be incredibly worried and concerned, but fear can make things more difficult. It can cloud your judgment and make you choose the wrong path to help those you care about. Ensure that fear isn't affecting your decisions.
2. Listen to their wishes. Your loved ones may want to talk about big decisions. It's important to refrain from interrupting them or stop the conversation. As their support system, one of the best things you can do is to listen and pay attention to what they want to say.
- They may say things that are hard to hear. They may discuss how they want to handle their illness or addiction. They may talk about relocating for a new job or trying a different career path.
- Avoid the impulse to judge, criticize, or argue. Your loved ones need to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with you. You may be the only support they have right now.
3. Recognize that you can't fix everything. It's tempting to rush around and try to end their suffering, but it's not possible for you to fix everything in someone else's life.
- Accept the limitations and try to make the best of the situation. Understand that sometimes your loved one needs to be in charge and make their own decisions.
4. Ask for help. You don't have to do everything alone. Asking for help doesn't mean you're weak. Many times, it takes great strength to ask for help.
- You may be using a great deal of energy to help your loved one. To be at your best, take time to take care of yourself, too. If you're sick, worn out or tired, then you can't be an effective helper.
- Reach out to others to grow your network of support so you can get help when it's necessary.
5. Be careful how you try to cheer them up. One of your natural responses may be to try to cheer up your loved one. However, this may not work out well. Be sensitive to their emotions.
- If you try to show them pictures or videos of happier times, they may become sadder.
- If you try to invite friends over and throw a party, they may feel uncomfortable and out of place.
- Even comfort food may not be effective in cheering them up. They may be on a special diet or have difficulty eating. Your cooking efforts may be wasted, and you may end up resenting the time you spend making special dishes.
- Before you jump in and try to cheer up others, stop and think about how they really feel.
You can reduce the suffering of your loved one. You have the power and the ability to lighten their burden. Try these techniques to help you both get through this challenging time.
Does it take days for you to recover after your workout sessions at the gym? This is a sign that you may be overdoing it and need to cut back. Learn more about important signals from your body that warn you to slow down, and what you can do to make your fitness routine work better for you.
If you're experiencing these symptoms, it's time to evaluate your fitness routine:
1. Soreness after more than 48 hours. It's normal to have some soreness after a hard workout However, if you're still sore and in serious pain more than 48 hours after your last workout, then it's a sign something is wrong with your exercise plan and its severity.
- This soreness shouldn't even appear if you've been doing the same workouts for months.
- Muscle pain, stiffness, and soreness are signs that you're overdoing it at the gym and may have an overuse injury. There could be micro tears in your muscles, sprains, or other issues.
2. Lasting joint pain. Joint pain can also point to an overuse injury.
- You may need to rest and get medical attention for joint pain that doesn't go away after a few days.
3. Backsliding results. Naturally, you want to see your workouts bring results, but you may end up backsliding if you're overdoing it at the gym.
- For example, if you're pushing yourself too hard and getting injured, then your results could drop from being able to do 10 laps to 5 laps at the gym. Another example is if you're not able to lift the same weights that you could lift a few weeks back.
- Backsliding results shouldn't be ignored because they're a sign you're doing too much and hurting yourself.
4. Dreading workouts. Everyone wants to skip the occasional workout and eat a bagel. However, if you dread your workouts to the point that you'll come up with any excuse to avoid them, then it's time to reevaluate.
- Exercise might not always be fun, but it shouldn't make you miserable. If you avoid or reschedule all of your workouts, consider if the main culprit is that you're overdoing it.
- You may be pushing yourself too far and want to skip the pain that comes with exercise.
- Once you start a workout, you would normally tend to cheer up because serotonin levels increase. However, if you're not any happier while you're doing the exercises, it's a clear sign that something needs to change. You may need to redo your routines or cut them down to a more reasonable amount.
Adjusting Your Workouts to Avoid Injury
If you've been forcing your body past its limits, you'll benefit from seeking professional help to adjust your workouts:
- If you're overdoing it, then a trainer can help you slow down and actually get better results.
- A trainer can work with you and push you just beyond your limits without sacrificing your health. A professional trainer knows how to avoid injuries and overuse of muscles, so you don't create lasting damage.
- If you prefer not to hire a trainer, consider help from trusted sources online, such as videos from experts.
Exercise shouldn't hurt your health, and overdoing it at the gym is dangerous. Pay attention to the warning signs from your body and take steps to avoid damage.
Belly bloat isn't easy to beat. You try to diet, exercise, and wear different clothes. You try supplements, pills, and shakes. Yet, the bloat won't disappear.
Fortunately, it's possible to get rid of the large midsection that bothers you!
Before you give up and resign to living with a large stomach, try these ideas to defeat belly bloat:
1. Avoid chewing gum. Chewing gum forces you to swallow air. The excess air ends up in your stomach and can make bloating worse.
2. Reduce carbohydrates in the evening. Research shows that eating too many carbohydrates in the evening can make belly bloat worse in the morning.
- Feel free to eat carbohydrates during the day. However, if it's close to your bedtime, avoid covering your plate with them. Your body needs time to digest them, and it's easier to do this if you're active during the day instead of in bed.
3. Stop your soda habit. Soda pop and all carbonated beverages can make your stomach bigger. Instead, drink water, juice, or herbal teas.
4. Add more potassium to your diet. Potassium in food can help reduce belly bloat. You'll get more potassium if you eat bananas, tomatoes, cantaloupe, spinach, and other produce. Nuts also contain high levels of potassium.
- The reason why potassium works to fight bloating is because it controls fluid intake in your body and cells. By eating more of these foods, you'll have better fluid control on a cellular level.
5. Avoid fake sugars. You may think you're helping your diet by eating artificial sugars. However, you're actually making your bloating worse.
- Artificial sugars are hard for your body to digest. They can often lead to unnecessary and annoying bloating. In addition, in large amounts, fake sugars can lead to cramping and stomach aches.
- To avoid artificial sugars, read package labels carefully. Artificial sugars can be in candy, cookies, baked goods, and other items. If the label has "sugar-free, "low calorie," or similar wording, that food is likely to have artificial sugar in it.
6. Add more probiotics. Whether you turn to more yogurt or kimchi, filling your diet with more probiotics will help you get rid of belly bloat.
- Probiotics can greatly benefit your digestive system. They can help you balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut. They're an important part of defeating bloating too.
- You can find probiotics in yogurt, fermented dairy products, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other foods. The key is to find some probiotic foods that you love and will enjoy eating every day, or at least several times a week.
7. Drink tea. Instead of drinking juices or coffee, you may want to switch to tea. For best results, pick natural herbal teas without GMO ingredients. Focus on organic ingredients. Green tea and peppermint tea may help you with belly bloating.
Belly bloat doesn't have to be a permanent part of your body. Use these strategies and win your battle with bloat.
You know that you need protein to have a healthy diet and body. However, there are some myths about protein that can confuse you and lead you down the wrong path. Not everything you hear about protein is true.
Protein is an essential nutrient for your entire body.
Beware of falling for these protein myths:
1. Myth 1: Protein magically builds muscle. One common myth revolves around eating protein such as peanut butter, meat or other foods and magically getting big or strong muscles.
- Unfortunately, simply eating protein isn't going to make you bulk up overnight. If you don't exercise, the protein you eat won't turn into muscle. You have to exercise regularly in addition to eating protein to see results.
2. Myth 2: All protein is the same. Protein gets broken down into amino acids in your body. Does it really matter if it's coming from a candy bar with nuts or a protein shake,
- The truth is that the source of the protein does matter.
- For example, animal and plant sources of protein aren't identical. The main difference is that many plant sources don't have all the essential amino acids your body requires. In addition, it's harder for your body to extract some of the protein from plant sources.
3. Myth 3: You can't overeat protein. This myth focuses on falsely believing that you can eat as much protein as you want without any consequences.
- You hear many warnings about eating too many carbohydrates and fats. However, how often do you hear warnings about eating too much protein, On the contrary, many believe you can't overindulge in protein. This is simply not true, and there are consequences to eating too much protein.
- Some of the common issues surrounding too much protein consumption include weight gain. Extra protein can turn into fat that is stored in the body. In addition, overeating protein can cause kidney damage and bad breath.
4. Myth 4: You must eat protein after every workout. You may be tempted to eat protein after workouts because of this myth. The idea behind the myth is that you need protein to rebuild the muscles you're using.
- The protein can refuel your body after a long day at the gym. However, if you forget to eat it or simply don't want to eat it, then it's not an issue.
- Research shows that having a large amount of protein right after a workout doesn't offer any long-term benefits. As long as you're getting enough protein from your meals and other snacks during the day, you don't have to rush to eat more protein right after running for a mile.
5. Myth 5: Protein will help you lose weight. Protein can be part of a weight loss plan, but eating it alone won't be enough to lose weight.
- For example, if you dramatically increase the amount of protein you eat, but don't exercise or change other habits, then you may not lose any weight.
- Protein isn't a magic pill that will melt pounds away the minute you increase your protein consumption. It's still important to control your calories, work out, and eat healthier.
Protein is a crucial nutrient, but it's important to avoid falling for these myths. For your best results, maintain a healthy, balanced diet with many types of nutrients and exercise to stay fit.