The writer of twice-monthly health columns is a practicing cardiologist, clinical professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine and founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity in Bingham Farms. He is an author and has appeared on national TV, including "Dr. Oz" and "The Doctors Show.
By Dr. Joel Kahn
Is your stress high?
The answer in 2020 is likely a loud YES. When I talk with patients, dealing with stress in their life often dominates the conversation.
Generally, physicians aren't taught how to give advice on stress-management techniques, so I had to study this field on my own. Here are tips that have helped patients and that I use in my life. Hopefully they can help you too.
There are many stylesk, but I teach my patients the 4-7-8 breathing practice in the office in just a few minutes. There are videos online that demonstrate taking in a slow breath through the nose for 4 seconds, holding it 7 seconds, and slowly exhaling it for 8 seconds, repeating this cycle 4 times. This practice can balance our nervous system.
Meditation has been shown to benefit heart patients, but can be intimidating. I teach patients a simple 12-minute form called the Kirtan Kriya. This practice has been studied at research centers like UCLA and benefits the brain and body. There are handouts online to learn it in a few minutes.
Different styles have been studied in a variety of stressful settings, including health challenges, and have proven beneficial. Yoga does not need to be fast-paced and hot and can be adapted even for the elderly using only a chair. There are many online videos course to participate in yoga even at an office or at home.
4. Adaptogenic herbs
There are herbs that are useful in supporting health and balance. They appear to help us adapt to stressful settings. I've had success in many patients using ashwagandha, and I take it myself. Rhodiola is another adaptogen that has been found to be effective in heart patients. Cordyceps also may provide a sense of calm.
5. Hemp oil
Often sold as CBD (a single chemical derived from the cannabis plant), the top of the line products are “full-spectrum hemp oils” that have dozens and dozens of active compounds, not just CBD. By law they are ultra-low in THC and are not marijuana. They are usually taken as capsules or oil-based tinctures. The science of hemp chemicals is known in great detail. These natural products often result in a feeling of life balance, less anxiety and improved sleep.
I remind patients of a story of a man speaking to a religious leader about his frustrations with the stresses in his life. The leader suggested they take a walk, and stopped in front of a cemetery. The religious figure pointed inside and said: "There are the only people who have no worries and stress.” For the rest of us, we need to manage and work out the issues with healthy habits and strategies.