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Las Vegas, NM– (2/2/2023) –Stress and feeling down now and then can sometimes be unavoidable. But did you know prolonged periods of stress and depression can take a toll on the health of your heart? In particular, depression affects as many as 33% of heart attack patients, according to the American Heart Association.

When you experience stress, your heart rate increases, and blood vessels narrow. Chronic stress means you’re more likely to have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and poor sleep. 

February is American Heart Month, which is the perfect time to check in on your heart health.

But while you can’t always limit the amount of stress in your life, you can keep stress at bay by changing your response. Some ways you can decrease your risk factors and take better care of your heart include:

  • Seeking support, rather than isolation.Social interaction with trusted friends or family may help with symptoms of depression and stress—especially when you can share your problems.
  • Engaging in self-care.Find relaxing activities, such as reading a good book, going on a long walk, or meditating.
  • Creating an open relationship with your primary care provider.The more you talk with your primary care provider about your health and any concerns you have, the easier it will be for him or her to pinpoint issues early and treat them.
  • Physical activity helps reduce heart disease risk factors by exercising the heart muscle and combating weight gain. It also helps lessen symptoms of depression by releasing feel-good endorphins that promote a positive attitude.

Taking care of your heart health is a lifelong journey, but when the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 remains higher in people with poor cardiovascular health, learning new ways to strengthen your heart is even more critical. 

Talk to your healthcare provider if you need help finding additional resources to help you cope with stress. Seek urgent care if you can’t manage at all or have suicidal thoughts.

Resources are also available at You can learn more about heart health from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute by visiting

Michael Dunkle, FNP-C is a board-certified nurse practitioner at Las Vegas Medical Group. Schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment at

About Alta Vista Regional Hospital
Alta Vista Regional Hospital is a community hospital committed to serving the healthcare needs of Northeastern New Mexico. We proudly offer a 30-minute ER pledge, which means the ER medical professionals work diligently to see patients within 30 minutes (or less) of their arrival at the ER. Online scheduling with a primary care provider is available 24/7 at For more information on available services, please visit