Women’s Heart Health, Valentine’s Day and Stress: An Interview with Nationally Renowned Cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum

I recently caught up with Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum to ask her about the stress that women may experience around Valentine’s Day and during this recent brutal winter weather in parts of the U.S.

Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, DO is an attending cardiologist and Director of Women’s Heart Health of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She has been awarded a New York Times Super Doctor, and a Castle and Connelly Top Doctor for Cardiovascular Disease. She is the 2010 recipient of the American Heart Association: Young Heart Award for Achievement in Cardiovascular Science and Medicine, and also the 2012 Women of Heart Honoree in recognition of leadership in Women’s Heart Health for Go Red. She has appeared numerous times on television and in print media, and authored Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart Healthy Life.

Fortunately for women everywhere, Dr. Steinbaum has devoted her career to the treatment of heart disease through early detection, education, and prevention.

Q — For women, relationships are key in our lives. February is Heart Health month, and it is also Valentine’s Day. This is a holiday that may be stressful for some women. Can you say a few words about the role of emotional stress in heart disease? Any thoughts on how the TM technique can reduce stress that is emotional at its source?

A significant part of a heart healthy life includes happy and positive relationships. For some, Valentine’s Day can be stressful. That stress can lead to an increase in the “fight or flight” hormones and inflammation, leading to plaque in the arteries. The relentless force of emotional stress can manifest physically, and learning how to manage stress is the key to preventing stress related disease. TM can reduce stress hormones and help to manage the stress related emotional responses. As a twice-a-day tool, TM can be an effective way of managing some of the most emotional and stressful parts of our lives.

Q — What about Broken Heart Syndrome?

Broken heart syndrome is the dilation and stunning of the heart, appearing as a heart-attack, solely by the surge of stress hormones in the body. It occurs due to stressful situations, and the heart looks as though it has suffered a heart attack. The condition often resolves but in the initial stages of development, could be dangerous. The mechanism is stress, and the key to prevention is diminishing stress. TM could help to prevent the excessive release of stress hormones that lead to this frightening condition.

Q — Winter also takes its toll and this has been an unusually severe winter in much of the United States. Any relationship between that and heart disease?

Heart disease can be triggered with cold temperatures, causing the arteries to spasm and leading to a lack of blood flow to the muscle of the heart, leading to angina or heart attacks. It is so important to maintain a heart healthy life through diet and exercise, sleep, and stress management.

Q- Do you think that American women are becoming more educated to the reality of heart disease and their options for prevention?

About 60% of women are aware that heart disease is her greatest health threat, which is over twice as many who did 15 years ago. Women are understanding that their lifestyle choices are the greatest options for preventing heart disease. Women do understand the critical roles of diet and exercise and understand the impact of stress on their lives. Women are more likely to empower themselves to become healthy through the daily choices that they make.

Q — Do you find the TM technique to be effective in prevention? What about after a heart incident?

Yes, I do feel that TM is an effective tool as part of living a heart-healthy life. Stress is such a critical aspect of the development of heart disease. Whether it is from stress itself, or how it affects your sleep and other lifestyle choices you make, such as food or alcohol, stress needs to be managed. Without stress management, an important component of cardiovascular health is being neglected. Whether it is preventing heart attacks, or even after a heart attack, TM can be an essential part of the daily recommendations for stress reduction, helping to stabilize blood pressure, and decrease inflammation.

Q — Can you tell us about any new research pertinent to women’s heart health?

Many recent trials are showing the disparities of care between men and women, and how, because of this, outcomes are significantly worse in women. I tell all women that they must advocate for themselves and know their risk factors for heart disease, including their family history, and to be proactive about taking care of themselves. All women need to eat a nutrient rich diet, high in good fats and multi-grains and vegetables, exercise regularly for 150 minutes per week, sleep 7 1/2 hours a night and find a form of stress management, such as TM, to help manage on a daily basis.

Learn TM for Your Heart’s Sake

About the Author

Janet Hoffman is the executive director of TM for Women Professionals, a division of TM for Women in the USA

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