This Is the Best Way to Protect Your Heart from Stress

Power up the treadmill after work: Cardio can actually undo the damage stress does to your heart health

Corbis Images.

In today's uber-connected world, constant stress is sort of a given. Between gunning for a promotion at work, training for your next race or trying a new class, and, oh yeah, having a social life, it's hard to fathom cutting down the To Do list.

We get it. But that perennial stress does have the potential to seriously damage your heart. (Find out Why the Diseases That Are the Biggest Killers Get the Least Attention.) Luckily, there's an easy antidote, according to the American Physiologial Society: cardio.

Yep, just firing up the treadmill (or actually hitting the pavement) could help your heart. See, stress ups our risk of cardiovascular disease and does damage to the health of our blood vessels. But aerobic exercise, like the kind you get by going for a long walk or training for a triathlon, can help to reverse that damage and keep stressed hearts healthy.

In the study, a team of researchers looked at how exercising would affect the heart health of a group of stressed-out rats over the course of eight weeks. They found that a daily dose of cardio-via rat-sized treadmill (ha!)-kept the blood vessels of the stressed rats working normally and promoted the enlargement of the blood vessels. The exercising rats also experienced an increase in the production of nitric oxide, another sign of a healthy, well-functioning heart. (Check out 5 Things You Probably Don't Know About Women's Heart Health.)

What does that mean for us humans? Not only does aerobic exercise have the potential to help us blow off steam (who doesn't love taking out their aggression after a tough day at work in spin class?), aerobic exercise can actually reverse the effects that chronic stress has on our hearts, making those stressed, stiff blood vessels as chill and relaxed as they'd be after a day at the spa.

So when your schedule gets particularly packed and something's gotta go, just make sure it isn't your cardio. (And don't procrastinate! That can lead to heart disease too.)

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